The past couple of days, everyone’s gag reflex was tested with one headline: “Poo found on every McDonald’s touchscreen tested.”
The article was published by Metro, which claimed gut and fecal bacteria were found on touch screen machines at several McDonald’s locations in England, including six in London and two in Birmingham.
Metro was so dramatic about it, they treated it as “breaking news.”
— Metro (@MetroUK) November 28, 2018
The investigation included three weeks of tests, and at the end of it, 10 types of bacteria were found.
“We were all surprised how much gut and [fecal] bacteria there was on the touchscreen machines. These cause the kind of infections that people pick up in hospitals,” senior lecturer in microbiology at London Metropolitan University Dr. Paul Matewele told the publication. “For instance Enterococcus faecalis is part of the flora of gastrointestinal tracts of healthy humans and other mammals. It is notorious in hospitals for causing hospital acquired infections.”
Metro reported one touch screen had staphylococcus, highly contagious bacteria that can cause blood poisoning and toxic shock syndrome. Listeria bacteria were found on another, and three-quarters of the screens swabbed showed traces of the bacteria proteus, which is found in both feces and dirt and can cause urinary tract infections.
Metro contacted McDonald’s, and a rep responded saying, “Our self-order screens are cleaned frequently throughout the day. All of our restaurants also provide facilities for customers to wash their hands before eating.”
But before you freak out, The Washington Post has stepped in to ease your concerns.
“No, there is no poop on McDonald’s touch screens,” The Washington Post wrote.
These screens do have lots of bacteria, they say, but they include those that live in your gut, intestines, nose, skin, mouth, throat and stool. We live with trillions of bacterial cells, both inside and outside our bodies. Just think about it: You’re touching doorknobs, shopping carts, elevator buttons and more — all of which could carry bacteria that are unlikely to harm a healthy person.
“These kinds of stories are irritating,” David Coil, a microbiologist at the University of California at Davis, told the publication. “It’s always something: kids’ toys, doorknobs, touch screens. These are all the same objects touched by people. Of course there will be human-associated bacteria on them. Washing your hands more or less does the trick.”
By no means did Metro need to target a specific establishment. And Matewele agrees that the bacteria found on the kiosks are common.
“I’m trying very hard not to sound alarmist,” he told Washington Post. “These are microorganisms that you find in humans anyway.”
So don’t freak out, but do wash your hands and consider carrying hand sanitizer with you if that helps put your mind at ease.