Barb Smith for ABC 4 reports that “The kids were playing and they came running down and they started saying poop, poop in the Playland.” Tania Wymore was alarmed by the very obvious form of E-Coli that her toddler found at a birthday party.
Other Utah moms say they have seen similar problems in the play areas at restaurants. Pamela Davis says it’s the things she cant see that she worries about most.
“From experience children do go to the bathroom in there. They do throw up in there, and they do all of that sort of stuff and its just not possible to know if its clean,” says Davis.
ABC 4 wanted to know if the negative perception of restaurant areas was warranted, so we put five restaurants, selected at random, to the test.
We collected laboratory samples for the most common and noxious of bacteria: Staphylococcus Aureus, Pseudomonas, Salmonella, and E-Coli. All of those could make a child sick, but only if ingested.
“Getting bugs on the hands won’t make anyone sick,” says Dr. Sean Biggs from the Jordan Valley Clinic. “But touching your mouth and then touching your food, putting it in your mouth, that is what gets you in trouble.”
In areas where food is side-by-side with playground equipment the temptation is not to wash. Nelson Laboratories took our test tube samples, plated out the bacteria on the swabs, and a few days later came back with the results.
Microbiologist Jason Smith says he was pleasantly surprised, and so were we.
“I was expecting a lot worse,” Smith said.
All of our tests came up negative for the really bad bacteria we were testing for, but Smith says there were other organisms present.
“It’s not filthy but then again, it is not exactly clean either,” Dr. Biggs says.
Bacteria is not the only problem in play areas, viruses are also present. Viruses are difficult to test for, and most are airborne.
Dr. Biggs says the best way to stay healthy and still let your children enjoy themselves is to wash their hands for fifteen to thirty seconds with soap and water before they put food in their mouths.