“One time one of my kids came out with crap on his hands”; posting grades for fast outlet playgrounds

About once a month we take our kids to Chick-Fil-A and let them run wild in the play area. It’s a treat that keeps Jack behaving relatively well for a few hours beforehand – and Dani and I like the food there. Our kids get exposed to lots of dirty places (child care at the gym; preschool; Marbles, a kids museum with lots of hands-on stuff) and we spend a lot of time washing hands. At Chick-Fil-A, we do a bunch of handwashing after visiting the play area and before jumping into our meals. The staff also disinfects the whole room using a bunch of different sanitizers every night. Not risk elimination, but definitely reduction.

A Toronto (that’s in Canada) city councilor wants public health officers to inspect not just the kitchens and processes in food establishments, but add sanitation of playgrounds to the list as well.

The councilor, Paul Ainslie, cites an awesome example of some of the risks and challenges in an interview with the Toronto Sun.

The father of three said he’s had concerns about the cleanliness of those indoor playgrounds, often in fast-food restaurants, for a while.

“I’ve had concerns for a long time about the play tubes and kids going in and once and a while someone comes out and says a kid crapped his diaper and they go find the manager,” Ainslie said. “One time one of my kids came out with crap on his hands.
“I just became very concerned about the cleanliness of them and how they are being taken care of.”

The Ward 43, Scarborough East councillor stressed some restaurants do a great job keeping their play areas clean but not all of them.

Toronto Public Health officials said Thursday that currently there is “no legislation governing the disinfection of indoor playgrounds in eating establishments.”

The move would also have the medical officer of health to come up with a checklist for eating establishments who operate an indoor play area to ensure it is a health environment for kids.

Playgrounds, particularly outdoor ones (with sand or surface bark) have been linked to outbreaks in the past. Pathogens can stick around and persist in soil (especially something hardy like Salmonella) and on fomites like slides (norovirus).

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About Ben Chapman

Dr. Ben Chapman is a professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. As a teenager, a Saturday afternoon viewing of the classic cable movie, Outbreak, sparked his interest in pathogens and public health. With the goal of less foodborne illness, his group designs, implements, and evaluates food safety strategies, messages, and media from farm-to-fork. Through reality-based research, Chapman investigates behaviors and creates interventions aimed at amateur and professional food handlers, managers, and organizational decision-makers; the gate keepers of safe food. Ben co-hosts a biweekly podcast called Food Safety Talk and tries to further engage folks online through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and, maybe not surprisingly, Pinterest. Follow on Twitter @benjaminchapman.