I remember learning about germs as a kid and momentarily freaking out that they were EVERYWHERE. Standing in line to receive hand sanitizer after recess and before lunch, my fourth-grade self wondered what else could use some hand sanny to get clean: the playground? The concrete? The world? In turns out, fourth-grade me was right: germs are everywhere and recent studies have shown that poop germs, specifically (forgive me), can be found, uh, well... in a lot of places too.
This topic gained new attention on Wednesday. Metro conducted an investigation into what exactly lives on the touchscreen menus at McDonald’s in the UK, and found traces of feces on “every single” touchscreen swabbed at all eight of the McDonald’s locations they surveyed. Also found were staphylococcus, a bacteria that can cause blood poisoning and toxic shock syndrome, and listeria, which can cause listeriosis and lead to stillbirths and miscarriages in pregnant people.
McDonald’s says it does clean the touch screens with disinfectant—but Dr. Paul Matewele, a senior lecturer in microbiology, told Metro that the chain may not be using strong enough stuff. (Fourth-grade me’s obsession with hand sanitizer: VALIDATED.) The obvious message here is we should all be washing our hands thoroughly and more often, not just after using the restroom but also, probably, after using a public surface to order food and then picking up and eating that food.
But I have more bad news—MarketWatch reported that, well, poop really is everywhere! Investigations by the BBC in the UK have found traces of fecal coliform bacteria in ice and in iced beverages at chains like McDonald’s, KFC, Starbucks, and Costa Coffee. And one professor from the University of Arizona did a study that found fecal matter in about 18 percent of office mugs. Elsewhere, studies have found fecal matter or other concerning bacteria in money, public pools, gym equipment, and your smartphone.
But we’re probably not gonna die from any of this stuff, most likely. MarketWatch explains:
But Dr. Ben Chapman, a food safety specialist and associate professor at North Carolina State University, told Moneyish that he was skeptical of the BBC report, because it didn’t identify which strains of bacteria were found, nor whether any of the pathogens were still alive.
“What this report is showing is that bacteria is there, not that it’s making anyone sick,” he assured. We’re exposed to bacteria all day, every day, and most of it doesn’t sicken us. “And in the specific cases [like E. coli] where it does make us sick, it’s thousands and thousands of bacteria from feces that cause illness,” he added. “Trace amounts of bacteria are not going to make you sick.”
Believing alive is full of risks, and one of those risks is coming into contact with trace amounts of fecal bacteria. Wear that like a badge of honor, baby. It’s us agains the world, and we have hand sanitizer and basic hygiene skills down. Stand tall, walk proud.