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Is Chuck E. Cheese's Really Chuck E. Diseases?

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As parents, we've all taken our kids to child-friendly restaurants. After our co-worker claimed to have gotten ringworm from Chuck E. Cheese's, we all started to wonder ... is this happy place really as clean and safe as it seems? We decided to do our own investigation and find out. Get ready for ... GROSS!

With the help of world-famous germ expert "Dr. Germ," a.k.a. Dr. Charles Gerba, momlogic decided to find out what kind of bacteria our kids are exposed to while playing and eating at everyone's favorite pizza party place.

We tested three California Chuck E. Cheese's locations: one in Pasadena, one in Sun Valley, and one in Burbank. Under Dr. Gerba's supervision, momlogic swabbed numerous surfaces in the restaurant and arcade, including games, play mats, trays, tables, and high chairs. Those samples were then sealed and shipped to Dr. Gerba's lab for analysis. What we found surprised even Dr. Gerba ... and shocked the hell out of us!



pasadena chuck e cheese bus bacteria

Found on Yellow Bus Ride in Pasadena:
Serratia rubidaea. A rare cause of respiratory tract infections, and wound and blood infections.


sunvalley high chair chuck e cheese bacteria

Found on child's high chair in Sun Valley: Enterobacter sakazakii. Can cause necrotizing enterocolitis, bacteremia, and infant meningitis. Although most documented cases involve infants, infections have been found in adults as well.


sun valley chuck e cheese play mat bacteria

Found on play mat in Sun Valley: Klebsiella pneumoniae. Causes urinary tract infections, wound and bloodstream infections, and pneumonia.


sun valley chuck e cheese table bacteria

Found on table in Sun Valley: Enterobacter sakazakii. Can cause necrotizing enterocolitis, bacteremia, and infant meningitis. Although most documented cases involve infants, infections have been found in adults as well.


burbank chuck e cheese play mat bacteria

Found on play mat in Burbank: Klebsiella pneumoniae. Causes urinary tract infections, wound and bloodstream infections, and pneumonia.


Yick! We called Chuck E. Cheese's headquarters in Irving, Texas, and spoke to company spokesperson Brenda Holloway about what we found. Here's what she had to say:

"We clean and sanitize our games every night with an antibacterial sanitizing solution called Ster-Bac Blu. We try to inspect and maintain during the day as well. We have a large amount of kids who come through here, and with them, a large amount of bacteria. We try to keep up with it."

After getting the results from Dr. Germ, we were so freaked out that we went straight to momlogic's pediatrician (and mom of two) Dr. Cara Natterson to find out what this means for our kids ... and us. Here's what Dr. Cara had to say:

"It's worth noting that one of the bacteria found on high chairs and tables -- Enterobacter sakazakii -- can cause serious infection in a young infant. This is yet another reminder that if you are tempted to take your newborn baby out of the house, a crowded restaurant is not the place to go.

"Chuck E. Cheese's is really just an example of a kid destination, a place designed to combine dining and family fun. Though the results of this study are specific to Chuck E. Cheese's, the idea is to apply the concept to kid restaurants that double as play spaces. Given the runny-nosed populations that flock here, I don't think anyone will be too surprised to find that bacteria lurk in these types of establishments.

"As a mom, these bacteria sound alarming and scary. But as a doctor, I haven't ever seen a serious or life-threatening infection that can be clearly traced back to a kid-friendly restaurant.

"So take this all with a grain of salt. Personally, I almost never take my kids to these places, so that when I do, it is a major treat. And I pretty much stay away during the cold and flu season."

So how can you protect your children (and yourself!) from picking up bacteria at kid-oriented restaurants? Here are Dr. Cara's top five tips:

1. Hand washing, hand washing, hand washing!
Make sure your kids wash their hands before they eat. And it's fine to use hand sanitizers or wipes to clean off the table surface or high chair -- but thorough rubbing is necessary. Don't just splatter on the Purell.

If they play after the meal, have them wash again before going home. This is especially important for thumb or finger suckers and nose pickers.

2. Wipes
Wipes are a great second line of defense, but really shouldn't be used in lieu of hand washing. Still, if there's no bathroom, wipe the hands thoroughly.

Also use wipes if the table (or especially the high chair) looks gross.

For babies, you can buy disposable plastic high chair tray covers that tape onto the tray and keep your child's food a lot cleaner. These are very easy to find in most grocery stores.

3. Avoid crowded kid play spaces during cold and flu season
This is not a news flash -- when a place is crowded with kids who have runny noses and coughs, you want to keep yours out of the mix.

4. Bring your own toys
Crayons, matchbox-sized cars, and legos are good examples of toys that you can keep in your purse or diaper bag and pull out for your child when things get a little boring.

At a place like Chuck E. Cheese's, crayons don't compete with rides. But there are plenty of other restaurants where having your own distraction helps.

5. Remember, timing is everything
I like to take my kids out when they are hungry, or time their snacks so that they'll want to eat when they arrive. That way, the likelihood of play before eating (and getting germs from toys on the hands) goes down.


next: Celebrity Double Trouble
144 comments so far | Post a comment now
ashley December 3, 2008, 8:03 AM

That is so disgusting. We have only been 2or 3 times with our kids. One place we do go that is sanitary is pump it up. They have the big inflatables. They clean them after each party group goes through. I have seen them and you can smell the sanitizer all over the place and the kids eat afterwards. I really like it there. Another thing we shouldn’t let our kids do is get their faces painted. My son got impetigo up his nose therefore it popped up right next to his eye. He had two breakouts before the doctors figured out what it was. It all started about 5 days after he got his face painted.

jennifer December 3, 2008, 11:31 AM

I knew about this years ago and refused to let my kids go there any more. My nephew only goes with hand sanitizer and he still ends up sick. Daycare places have to bleach all their toys, why doesn’t the health dept make these places to the same? Yuck!

just sayin' December 3, 2008, 11:32 AM

That place is nasty. Plus, some parents think its a daycare and leave their kids there. Those kids and some other unfortunate kids walk around begging people for money and tokens, both sad and annoying as hell. Oh, and kids poop in the ball pit.

Anonymous December 3, 2008, 1:26 PM

Alot of low class people go to CC.

get over it December 3, 2008, 3:27 PM

Hello germs are everywhere from your home to the store to your car to the bathrooms.. No matter how good you clean your home you will still get germs due to leaving your home..

FYI not even true about low class people go to C.C. I worked for some rich families and they take their children to C.C.

Get over it germs are here to stay..

Martha Buegelheimer December 4, 2008, 11:41 AM

From the article: “What we found surprised even Dr. Gerba … and shocked the hell out of us!”

I’m sorry, but as a mother of seven, I find that kind of salty language unacceptable in a family-friendly site! My youngest, Elmer, was reading this article with me, and I had to explain what h e double hockey sticks meant.

Please refrain from using the H-word again.

Rosanna December 4, 2008, 11:44 AM

Come on! What place is sterile? I wish someone did cultures at the home of the reporter of this story!

Rick December 4, 2008, 12:43 PM

Funny how my family always gets sick after visiting this so called family restaurant, Now I know why, just disgusting.

Anonymous December 4, 2008, 12:45 PM

I used to go to Chuck E. Cheese pretty regularly as a kid.
I never got sick.
I still never get sick.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Quit freaking out. Let your kids be kids.

The Hamburglar December 4, 2008, 12:56 PM

Germaphobe. I know what that’s like…

Anonymous December 4, 2008, 12:58 PM

This is not news, everyone who has kids know that germs live with children. It’s a parents job to keep their kids clean. There is no such a thing as germ free in this world. Unfortunately we can’t control it. If you got grossed out by those germs then you really don’t want to know what type of germs are on everyday places you touch. Get over it you snotty people.

Seymour Skinner December 4, 2008, 1:20 PM

I knew mother was right to forbid me from going!


Anonymous December 4, 2008, 2:09 PM

CEC doesn’t even have ball pits and crawl structures, at least here. Its just games and rides. Germs are gonna be in every public establishment regardless. This article makes it seem like Chuck E Cheese is the plague and Dave and Busters has nothing wrong with it.

Sure, allow your child to live in a bubble, don’t take them anywhere but your (supposedly) sterile house and then watch them get fat, lazy and smelly.

Kaiser December 4, 2008, 2:25 PM

“Alot of low class people go to CC.”

And most low class people spell it “alot” instead of “a lot”.

Get over yourselves people. Its a fun place for kids. If you are so afraid of your spoiled little angels getting sick…don’t let them leave the house.

Its parents like you who are damning the future leaders of this country.

Col. Sanders December 4, 2008, 2:30 PM

I, for one, welcome Chuck E. Cheese into my neighborhood. They have traditionally been very good for business, despite the additional hazard insurance I must take out on my storefronts.

Patty O'Furniture December 4, 2008, 2:35 PM

I guess making children inhale vast amounts of extremely toxic cleaning chemicals, is much better than having them eat a Pizza with some bacteria that their bodies have a natural defense against.

Right.

Filthy Hypochondriacs.

Anonymous December 4, 2008, 2:42 PM

If momlogic is this worried about germs, wait til one of their writers gets word about what DUST is made out of.

Chuck December 4, 2008, 6:10 PM

Germs are what an immune system is for. If you never get sick then you’ll never build up any immunities. Then when you do get sick, you’ll get really sick. Kids have germs, get over it.

Chuck December 4, 2008, 6:12 PM

“I knew about this years ago and refused to let my kids go there any more. My nephew only goes with hand sanitizer and he still ends up sick. Daycare places have to bleach all their toys, why doesn’t the health dept make these places to the same? Yuck!
- jennifer”


How do you suggest you bleach an arcade machine, genius?

Jack December 4, 2008, 6:17 PM

“From the article: “What we found surprised even Dr. Gerba … and shocked the hell out of us!” I’m sorry, but as a mother of seven, I find that kind of salty language unacceptable in a family-friendly site! My youngest, Elmer, was reading this article with me, and I had to explain what h e double hockey sticks meant. Please refrain from using the H-word again.
- Martha Buegelheimer”

Right. Do you write to the editors of books and magazines to have them republish censored content so that you won’t have to teach your precious little snowflake what a word means?

The first amendment guarantees us freedom of speech. If you don’t like it, don’t use the internet. Who are you to tell people what words they’re allowed or not allowed to use? I find your stupidity level unacceptable and must ask you to leave the internet.


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