Next time you use a self-order touchscreen at McDonald’s, you might also get some "free side orders" of Listeria, Staphylococcus, and a bunch of other bacteria found in poop. Mmmm, I'm loving it!
A recent investigation has found that McDonald’s touchscreens are covered in a number of potentially worrying and contagious strains of bacteria. Microbiologists from London Metropolitan University recently carried out a swab analysis of touchscreens in eight McDonald’s restaurants in the UK, six in London and two in Birmingham, as part of an investigation by Metro.co.uk.
Samples from all of the branches contained coliform bacteria, a broad class of bacteria found in the poop of all warm-blooded animals and humans, as well as Bacillus bacteria. They also discovered Listeria bacteria in two London branches. Typically associated with causing a food poisoning-like sickness, it can be potentially life-threatening if you're pregnant or have a weak immune system.
“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,” Dr Paul Matewele, a London Metropolitan University microbiologist who worked on the investigation, told Metro.
A screen at one branch was found to harbor Staphylococcus, a group of bacteria that can be responsible for staph infections. Other bacteria discovered on the screens include Pseudomonas; responsible for chest infections, Enterococcus faecalis; found in the gastrointestinal tracts of humans, and Klebsiella; associated with urinary tract infections, septicemia, and diarrhea.
“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,” added Dr Matewele.
Defending the findings, 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.”
So, just how worried should you be?
Well, bacteria are an inseparable part of our world. They are literally everywhere, from your face to the opening of a deep-sea hydrothermal vent, or that ATM you got money out of this morning. Some of these are harmless, some are harmful, and some are actually beneficial.
Obviously, the idea of touching a slightly greasy screen covered in germs just before you eat is not very appetizing. However, as long as your immune system is in good shape, you shouldn’t have too much to worry about. Many of these bacteria sound scarier than they are and in small numbers, won’t do you any harm.
That said, having a quick hand wash with soap and warm water before you eat anywhere in public probably isn't the worst idea in the world.