Traces of faeces have been found lurking on every McDonald’s touchscreen used for ordering food in an investigation.
Samples were taken eight stores – six in London and two in Birmingham – all of which were contaminated with coliforms, found in humans faeces.
Diners who use the machines, which have been rolled out at restaurants across the UK, head to the server to pick up their food.
An investigation into six McDonald’s stores found traces of faeces on the touchscreens diners use to order their food. The results, which found other contagious bacteria, are worrying, according to Dr Paul Matawele of London Metropolitan University
The samples found traces of other worrying bacteria, including staphylococcus, which can cause blood poisoning and toxic shock syndrome.
Senior lecturer in microbiology at London Metropolitan University Dr Paul Matawele said that, although the screens are cleaned, it is clearly not rigorous enough.
‘These bacteria can be on touchscreen machines for days on end’, he said.
The investigation was undertaken by metro.co.uk and the London Metropolitan University School of Human Science.
‘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.
‘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.’
Seeing Staphylococcus on these machines is worrying because it is so contagious, according to the expert.
‘It starts around people’s noses, if they touch their nose with their fingers and then transfer it to the touchscreen someone else will get it, and if they have an open cut which it gets into, then it can be dangerous.
‘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 bacteria was found in Oxford Street and Holloway Road branches. It can cause listeriosis which can lead to miscarriages and stillbirths in pregnant women.
What are coliforms?
Coliform bacteria are organisms that are present in the environment and in the feces of all warm-blooded animals and humans.
Coliform bacteria will not likely cause illness. However, their presence in drinking water indicates that disease-causing organisms (pathogens) could be in the water system.
Most pathogens that can contaminate water supplies come from the feces of humans or animals.
There are three different groups of coliform bacteria; each has a different level of risk.
They are total coliform, fecal coliform, and E. coli which are all indicators of drinking water quality.
Total coliform bacteria
These are commonly found in the environment (e.g., soil or vegetation) and are generally harmless.
Fecal coliform bacteria
These are a sub-group of total coliform bacteria. They appear in great quantities in the intestines and feces of people and animals. The presence of fecal coliform in a drinking water sample often indicates recent fecal contamination, meaning that there is a greater risk that pathogens are present.
This is a sub-group of the fecal coliform group. Most bacteria are harmless and are found in great quantities in the intestines of people and warm-blooded animals. Some strains, however, can cause illness.
Source: Washington State Department of Health
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.’
Three quarters of the screens swabbed showed traces of the bacteria proteus, which can be found in human and animal faeces.
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 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.’
Dr Matewele added: ‘Touchscreen technology is being used more and more in our daily lives but these results show people should not eat food straight after touching them, they are unhygienic and can spread disease.
‘Someone can be very careful about their own hygiene throughout the day but it could all be undone by using a touchscreen machine once.’
He added: ‘These bacteria can be on touchscreen machines for days on end. 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.’
The restaurants test were Oxford Circus, Holloway Road, Oxford Street, Kensington High Street, Seven Sisters Road and Bethnal Green in London, and Ramp and Pigeon Park in Birmingham.
McDonald’s started rolling out the touchscreen, often called self-service kiosks, at its US locations in 2015.
By 2020, it plans to have most of its 14,000 US locations to have the touchscreens installed.
In the UK, McDonald’s says it is currently trialling the kiosks in some restaurants and will look to install more in other locations if the trial is successful.
The technology was designed to increase efficiency in the restaurants, speeding up the ordering process and reducing potential human error.
|Oxford Circus||Oxford Street||Holloway Road||Kensington High Street||Seven Sisters Road||Bethnal Green||Birmingham, Ramp||Birmingham, Pigeon Park|