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Traces of faecal bacteria found on touchscreens in a number of McDonald’s restaurants in the UK

Traces of fecal bacteria have been found on touchscreens in a number of McDonald's restaurants in the UK

Update: This story has been updated to include a response from McDonald’s Malaysia to our queries on the matter.

Traces of fecal bacteria have been found on touchscreens in a number of McDonald’s restaurants in London and Birmingham, in the United Kingdom, according to UK-based tabloid, metro.co.uk.

The study was carried out with help from the London Metropolitan University’s school of human sciences. It involved swabs taken from touchscreen displays at eight McDonald’s restaurants in the UK — six in London and two in Birmingham. The displays are used as self-servic kiosks for customers to order their meals in a number McDonald’s restaurants.

The study found that everyone of the screens tested had coliforms. Coliforms are a broad class of bacteria found in the environment, including the human and animal feces. The presence of coliforms in drinking water indicates possible contamination and potential health risk.

A cocktail of very dangerous bacteria

Senior lecturer in microbiology at London Metropolitan University Dr Paul Matawele told Metro UK: ‘We were all surprised how much gut and faecal bacteria there was on the touchscreen machines. These cause the kind of infections that people pick up in hospitals.

Enterococcus faecalis

‘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.’

Staphylococcus

A screen at one branch was found to have staphylococcus, a bacteria that can cause blood poisoning and toxic shock syndrome.

‘There is a lot of worries at the moment that staphylococcus is becoming resistant to antibiotics. However, it is still really dangerous in places like Africa where it can cause toxic shock.’

Listeria

Listeria bacteria was found in Oxford Street and Holloway Road branches. It can cause listeriosis which can lead to miscarriages and stillbirths in pregnant women.

Dr Matewele said: ‘Listeria is another rare bacterium we were shocked to find on touchscreen machines as again this can be very contagious and a problem for those with a weak immune system.’

Proteus

Three quarters of the screens swabbed showed traces of the bacteria proteus.

Dr Matewele said: ‘Proteus can be found in human and animal faeces. It is also widely distributed in soil. It can cause urinary tract infections and is also one of the hospital acquired infections where it may responsible for septicaemia.

Klebsiella

‘Klebsiella is also from the gut and mouth, they are associated with urinary tract infections, septicemia and diarrhoea. Some species can infect the respiratory tract resulting in pneumonia.’

The screens are cleaned frequently

A McDonald’s spokesman said: ‘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.”

McDonald’s does clean the screens with disinfectant but Dr Matawele said it ‘could not have been strong enough.

What about touchscreens in McDonald’s Malaysia?

Simillar self-service kiosks have been made available in McDonald’s restaurants in Malaysia since October last year. The kiosks are popular among patrons at McDonald’s as it makes ordering and paying for meals easy, fast and convenient.

We’ve reached out to McDonald’s Malaysia for comment on the matter and are awaiting their response.

McDonald’s Malaysia has responded to our queries on the matter. Their response is produced here in verbatim

McDonald’s Malaysia assures you that all our restaurants in Malaysia undergo rigorous cleaning procedures which are enforced daily.

Self-order kiosks (SOKs) in McDonald’s restaurants nationwide are wiped down with antibacterial solutions regularly throughout the day. Our strict hygiene procedures to ensure the cleanliness of our restaurants not only apply to our SOKs but in all areas within our restaurants.

All of our restaurants also provide facilities for customers to wash their hands before eating.

McDonald’s Malaysia

McDonald’s Malaysia also points out that the tests carried out were on touchscreen menus in McDonald’s in the UK, and the results do not apply to the touchscreen menus in McDonald’s restaurants in Malaysia.

In the meantime, here’s what you can do

The kiosks are a convenience, that’s for sure. So does this mean, we all should stop using them? Perhaps not but maintaining good general hygiene is always a good thing. If you continue to use the kiosks, make sure wash your hands thoroughly before taking a bite from that big, juicy Big Mac.

The World Health Organisation recommends taking one minute to wash your hands properlly, and it’s not just a matter of putting your hands under running water. There’s a method to a pair of properlly clean hands. Check the video to know how.