Fast Food Playgrounds Are Even Dirtier Than You Thought

When you're out with your family for a meal, it's likely that the kids will get restless as food gets prepared. That's where fast food playgrounds come into the equation, offering momentary respite from inevitable boredom. These playgrounds were a hit in the '90s, but have since been eliminated in most places.

Did you know that it was McDonald's that first started this trend? It introduced its customers to the idea of a play area in Chula Vista, California sometime in the 1970s. Eater's Kelsey Lawrence pointed out that McDonald's made a serious effort to appeal to its young patrons by launching McDonaldland, an ambitious project that included fascinating characters such as a cop called Officer Big Mac, a thief called Hamburglar, and more. The play areas at McDonald's outlets featured these special characters in abundance.

There was one major hiccup, though. As popular as play areas were, these spaces weren't necessarily clean or safe for children to spend extended periods of time in. Some of them had poor hygiene standards, which meant that they could be breeding grounds for illnesses.

Fast food playgrounds can harbor dangerous germs

The safety issue really came to light in 2011 when a concerned parent from Arizona, Erin Carr-Jordan, who was also a professor at Arizona State University, accidentally found out that there were some truly scary objects inside a McDonald's play area — such as decaying food items and other things that unsuspecting kids could easy put into their mouths (via Food Safety News).

The professor was so alarmed by what she discovered that she ended up inspecting play areas in several fast food places around the country, obtaining bacterial samples to find out what kids could be exposed to during a play session. She found that the samples contained pathogens, no matter where she went. "We're talking about children, not adults who have stronger immune systems. They haven't developed immunities to pathogens," Carr-Jordan pointed out, advising parents to ensure that their children wash their hands before eating and after spending time at a play area at a fast food outlet.

According to CBS, McDonald's, for its part, issued a statement back then that read, "We put our customers first, and are taking these concerns very seriously. We've spoken with Dr. Carr-Jordan and assigned a team to review the report findings and our own existing procedures." It added that sanitization protocols were strict at its restaurants.

However, one Redditor wrote about their concern surrounding cleanliness practices at these places, and explained that they never really saw them cleaned during their time as a fast food employee. Sigh.