McDonald's touchscreens test positive for feces, dangerous bacteria

A semi-scientific test of touchscreen kiosks in eight McDonald's restaurants in the U.K. have caused alarm that microbiologists say is unwarranted.

McDonald's touchscreens test positive for feces, dangerous bacteria
  • The Metro newspaper conducted a semi-scientific test of touchscreen kiosks in eight McDonald's restaurants in the U.K.
  • All of them tested positive for various kinds of bacteria that can cause infection.
  • Public touchscreens are known to harbor high amounts of bacteria, though tests also suggest the average smartphone isn't much cleaner.

A new test suggests you should strive to avoid public touchscreens — unless you don't mind getting poop and other infection-causing bacteria on your fingers.

The Metro newspaper recently conducted a limited study that involved taking swab samples of touchscreen kiosks located within eight McDonald's restaurants in the U.K. All of the samples tested positive for some kind of bacteria that can potentially cause infection.

"We were all surprised how much gut and faecal bacteria there was on the touchscreen machines," Dr. Paul Matewele, senior lecturer in microbiology at London Metropolitan University, which helped analyze the samples, told the Metro. "These cause the kind of infections that people pick up in hospitals."

Some of the bacteria found were relatively common.

"For instance Enterococcus faecalis is part of the flora of gastrointestinal tracts of healthy humans and other mammals," Matewele said. "It is notorious in hospitals for causing hospital acquired infections."

But at least two samples tested positive for listeria, a rarer bacterium that's found found in human and animal feces, and which can lead to miscarriages and stillbirths.

"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," Matewele said.

The test also revealed the presence of the bacteria proteus, klebsiella and staphylococcus.

How dirty are touchscreens in general?

In short, pretty disgusting. You might have read reports (some more scientific than others) showing that airport touchscreen kiosks are actually dirtier than the "flush button" on airplane bathrooms, or similar tests showing that your keyboard is covered with an ungodly amount of germs.

But the worst offender is probably in your pocket. Ask yourself when's the last time you used a disinfectant on your smartphone. If you're like most people, it's probably not often enough, considering a University of Arizona study showed that smartphones are likely to carry 10 times the bacteria found on the average toilet seat. At least that's something you can fix.

As for public touchscreens, the solution is straightforward though it'll take a bit of effort: Always wash your hands after using one — especially if you're about to eat.

A McDonald's spokesperson told the Metro: "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."

A more down-to-earth response

"These kinds of stories are irritating," David Coil, a microbiologist at the University of California at Davis, says to The Washington Post. "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."

Live on Monday: Does the US need one billion people?

What would happen if you tripled the US population? Join Matthew Yglesias and Charles Duhigg at 1pm ET on Monday, September 28.

Should you grow a beard? Here's how women perceive bearded men

Whether or not women think beards are sexy has to do with "moral disgust"

Photo Credit: Frank Marino / Unsplash
Sex & Relationships
  • A new study found that women perceive men with facial hair to be more attractive as well as physically and socially dominant.
  • Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength, social assertiveness, and formidability.
  • Women who display higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, are more likely to prefer hairy faces.
Keep reading Show less

Learn innovation with 3-star Michelin chef Dominique Crenn

Dominique Crenn, the only female chef in America with three Michelin stars, joins Big Think Live.

Big Think LIVE

Having been exposed to mavericks in the French culinary world at a young age, three-star Michelin chef Dominique Crenn made it her mission to cook in a way that is not only delicious and elegant, but also expressive, memorable, and true to her experience.

Keep reading Show less

Ultracold gas exhibits bizarre quantum behavior

New experiments find weird quantum activity in supercold gas.

Credit: Pixabay
Surprising Science
  • Experiments on an ultracold gas show strange quantum behavior.
  • The observations point to applications in quantum computing.
  • The find may also advance chaos theory and explain the butterfly effect.
  • Keep reading Show less

    3 cognitive biases perpetuating racism at work — and how to overcome them

    Researchers say that moral self-licensing occurs "because good deeds make people feel secure in their moral self-regard."

    Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash
    Personal Growth

    Books about race and anti-racism have dominated bestseller lists in the past few months, bringing to prominence authors including Ibram Kendi, Ijeoma Oluo, Reni Eddo-Lodge, and Robin DiAngelo.

    Keep reading Show less
    Scroll down to load more…
    Quantcast