Unsanitary Restaurant Play Areas

A mom on a mission at California's state capital could turn the stomach of even the most hardened lawmaker

As parents, we are used to our kids playing at parks, daycares and schools. Most of us count on those environments to be sanitary and safe.

But have you ever wondered what was lurking inside the indoor play structures at fast food spots?

Erin Carr Jordan, Ph.D., a professor and mother of four, did wonder and she got a view from a child’s perspective that it is unsettling.

Carr Jordan is asking the brains and brawn of politics to consider legislating from a child’s point of view – literally.

"It started for me just as I happened to be with my son in one of these play areas and noticed immediately when we went in how filthy it was,” she said.

This Arizona mom and her kids strapped on cameras and took a tour of restaurant playgrounds and this is what they found at places like McDonald’s and Chucky Cheese.

"In addition to being filthy to the point of being dangerous, we noticed there was also equipment that posted a significant threat to safety," Carr Jordan said.

San Diego is only one of 20 cities Carr Jordan has visited in 10 states across the country, but she said the San Diego restaurants she randomly picked were some of the worst she had seen.

“Missing bolts and screws, cracks in hardware and plastic, netting ripped, strong smell of urine and feces,” she said. “San Diego and California were a mess.”

None of the restaurants Carr Jordan inspected and videotaped wanted to talk with NBCSanDiego on the record about her findings.

One of the restaurants told NBCSanDiego that they sanitize their play areas every day.

It’s important to note, in California, restaurant play areas are not required to be inspected regularly. That could soon change.

Carr Jordan helped California Assemblymember Michael Allen introduce legislation that passed a health committee in early April.

The bill, AB 1513, would require minimal cleaning standards for play areas. She says it would prevent kids from crawling in a petri dish of disease.

"We found bacteria including Coliforms which is indicative of fecal contamination, acinetobacter baumannii which is multi-drug resistant bacteria too and if that gets into the blood stream of a child, that could be potentially fatal," Carr Jordan said.

The California Restaurant Association said, “Restaurants share the goal of keeping their play areas clean in order to make them inviting to their patrons. Restaurant franchises already have contractual obligations to maintain their play areas and county health departments have the legal authority to inspect them.

If this were a serious public health risk, AB 1513 would apply to play areas at schools, malls, airports, gyms and parks rather than just focusing on restaurants.

Parents like James Schaffer welcome the regulation.

"It’s to protect our children,” Schaffer said. “I wouldn’t allow my children in there, so they should clean up the place.

He believes this mom on a mission is on to something good and he too is calling on lawmakers to protect even the smallest of their constituents. 

This report originally aired on NBC 7 on April 11, 2012.

Follow NBCSanDiego for the latest news, weather, and events: iPad App | iPhone App | Android App | Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | Instagram | RSS | Text Alerts | Email Alerts

Contact Us