It probably won't come as a surprise that fast food playlands aren't the cleanest places for your kids to play. But to learn many of them are filthy, sticky, disgusting, and likely contaminated with several disease-causing pathogens including gonorrhea and meningitis should be downright shocking, not to mention infuriating.
At least that's been the reaction of Erin Carr-Jordan, a 36-year-old mom and developmental psychologist who's been documenting the appalling conditions in several fast food playlands in California. She's on a one-woman mission to convince restaurants to adopt regulations that would require cleaning these places regularly to make sure they are safe for children.
And if you'd seen everything she has, you'd be on a similar crusade, too:
Carr-Jordan has visited and videotaped more than 50 playlands in recent months. On a typical visit, she may find:
... sticky surfaces, filmy windows, several broken pieces of equipment, food morsels in every compartment, trapped hair, garbage and thick black schmutz in most crevices.
In addition to observing the area, she also sends swabs for microbial testing. Samples from one playland turned up fecal contamination as well as 13 different disease-causing pathogens including four strains of staph, two strains of gram-negative cocci (the most common in the United States are meningitis and gonorrhea), and more. So far, she's singled out Chick-fil-A as one fast food company that regularly cleans their playlands and are happy to provide customers with their cleaning protocols; but McDonald's, Burger King, and Chuck E. Cheese are among those restaurants that either don't have any such protocols or have not responded to her inquiries.
Critics of Carr-Jordan's activist work say she is making much ado over nothing; after all, most parents have no problem allowing their children to play in outdoor playgrounds, which are notorious for being dirty and germy. But the difference here is that many fast food playlands are indoors, and the closed, warm, moist environment accelerates bacteria growth. Add their proximity to food and the fact that many kids are often playing and eating at the same time, and you have a recipe for disaster.
The bottom-line here is that fast food restaurants use playlands to attract customers and their families to their business. If it means keeping kids safer, is it really that crazy to ask them to keep their venues clean? Watch the video before you answer that question.
Do you keep your kids away from fast food playlands?
Image via dno1967b/Flickr