Food Poisoning Risk Posed by Restaurant High Chairs

Public toilet seats are rife with bacteria, and that’s expected. What comes as a surprise is that baby high chairs provided by restaurants can potentially contain more bacteria than your basic public restroom toilet seat, according to the Daily Mail.

Swabs were taken at about 30 restaurants and were found to contain, on average, some 147 different bacteria per centimeter, with some bacteria considered particularly virulent, noted the Daily Mail. The average public toilet seat contains, in comparison, about eight bacteria per square centimeter, the Daily Mail added. Bacteria included <"">E. coli, Staph aureus, and enterococcus faecalis, said the Daily Mail.

Dr. Nicholas Moon, director of technical affairs at Microban, makers of antibacterial products and the firm that conducted the research, said, “The test results varied considerably and while some of the high chairs were relatively clean, others had concentrations of bacteria as high as 1,200 bacteria per square centimetre, which is worrying.

“This is of concern because a child’s immune system tends to be far less robust than an adult’s and children tend to touch things and put their hands in their mouth a lot—so they easily infect themselves with any germs they encounter,” said Dr. Moon, quoted the Daily Mail. The research was conducted in the United States.

Of note, visible stains don’t always indicate germs or the lack of germs. “However, the report found high levels of bacteria even on high chairs that looked clean to the visible eye—indicating that even when staff clear obvious spillages, they are not using antibacterial spray cleaners to ensure that the chair is thoroughly cleaned before the next child sits down. This lack of attention could easily lead to cross-contamination or more serious illness,” said Dr. Moon, according to the Daily Mail.

Dr. Ron Cutler, a microbiologist from Queen Mary, University of London, said, “While you would not expect a high chair to be as clean as a hospital it should certainly be preferable that they were cleaner than this report indicates. Children could potentially be getting ill as a result of contact with high chairs if this report is accurate,” quoted the Daily Mail.

Dr. Cutler pointed out that, “The chairs with cloth cushions on them are probably the worst culprits because these are hardest to keep clean during the course of the day,” the Daily Mail indicated.

Meanwhile, a study conducted by the Hygiene Council in 2007 found that 60 percent of food trays on baby high chairs in private homes contained Coliforms, a bacteria indicator that confirms contamination with some bacteria including fecal “matter, raw meat, soil, or unwashed vegetables,” said the Daily Mail.

E. coli and enterococcus faecalis can cause dangerous, even deadly, gastrointestinal distress and illness. Staph aureus can cause an array of illnesses that range from skin infections that have led to limb amputations and to deadly sepsis, pneumonia, and meningitis, to name just a few. Some strains of these diseases have developed multi-drug antibiotic resistance, making them particularly difficult—in some cases, impossible—to resolve.

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