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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
GEli December 4, 2008, 6:20 PM

Every surface in the world is covered in piles of nasty bacteria. That these bacteria were present isn’t surprising or a big deal - it would only matter if the bacteria were present in high enough concentrations to allow them to exhibit pathogenicity in a person. Plating a bunch of swabs tells you nothing but whether bacteria are present, which by itself is useless.

Anonymous December 4, 2008, 6:43 PM

thanks tips, what place isn’t sanitary you might as well be writing about how dirty door knobs are. its a place where kids go to have fun, does anything else matter? so what if a kid gets sick, ITS GOOD FOR THEM. boosts their immune system so they will not get sick later on, if they aren’t exposed to these things it will only come back and get them down the road. i find this to be a joke

p.s there are far worse things out there to worry about then chuck e cheeze

mike December 4, 2008, 9:26 PM

i grew up going to chuck e cheese and have never been sick because of it. my 2 kids love it as well. some of you people are so stupid! when you get home, throw your kids in the tub. if your kids are getting sick because of chuck e cheese, then you are a pig that does not know how to keep your kid clean. so maybe you are the ditry ones! OH MY GOD! i hope your kid never uses a public bathroom or goes to school! THEY MIGHT DIE! LOL….some people are so stupid. you probably had no fun as a child. i feel sorry for you!

GERMAPHOBE!!!!! December 4, 2008, 9:34 PM

You know I CAN understand the Germophobes as I am one especially since I have had my kids….but lets see what we as parents can do about this…
1. Make your kids wash there hands before AND after they eat so when they play on these toys at least THEY are not contributing…
2. HAND SANITIZER…really cheap and fits in your purse. They even have purse size bottles of Lysol that ALSO fit in your purse and they are also inexpensive.
3. DO NOT let your child eat off the tables, seats, toys, games, trays or any other ” infected” surface.
4. Get over YOUR fears and let your kids have fun…if they get sick let it build their immume system and move on…

um really December 4, 2008, 9:46 PM

so after reading this and some of the comments i have to say yes chuck e cheeses is pretty gross. i take my daughter there about twice a year and she is only allowed to play the games she is not allowed to play in the ball pit or the tubes. also i would like to say to the person who said “Alot of low class people go there” that was very rude.

Hugh G Rexion December 4, 2008, 10:16 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.

- Kaiser”

YORE

Lonny December 4, 2008, 10:20 PM

OMG, It seems like we cant depend on anything anymore. The one place where our children should be safe to play may just cost them their lives. I am so disgusted, my skin is crawling just knowing that I gave my 1 year old’s birthday party there just earlier this year, thank God for the news!

Lonny December 4, 2008, 10:21 PM

OMG, It seems like we cant depend on anything anymore. The one place where our children should be safe to play may just cost them their lives. I am so disgusted, my skin is crawling just knowing that I gave my 1 year old’s birthday party there just earlier this year, thank God for the news!

doc savage December 4, 2008, 10:50 PM

I am so sick and tired of you snotty, spoiled, holier than thou, suburban feminazis. You listen to others phobias and jump on the band wagon and start raising cain about nothing. Germs are even in the air we breathe. How many of you don’t peform oral sex? How many of you had to urinate out in the woods with no toilet paper? Let kids be kids. They are going to get sick one way or the other. If you are so worried about them getting sick, stick them in a sterile bubble and keep them at home.

Robert December 4, 2008, 11:22 PM

Did you do a control? Did you test several other restaurants and other types of establishments, an Applebees, a bar (where single adults go to drink, no kids there) — and the automobile you rode to Chuck E Cheese in — and your home?

Otherwise you are unfairly picking on Chuck E Cheese and mongering fear - everywhere might be that dirty and that might just be normal. Or you might have contaminated the swabs.

Humans have an immune system for a reason. It isn’t cause for alarm that bacteria are everywhere.

Kids need to build up their immune system anyway. It’s no fun being an immune-deficient adult, you suffer with all sorts of obscure chronic conditions that modern medicine doesn’t know how to treat, and you end up spending years first being told by doctors “it’s all in your head” then 10 years later “Yeah, that actually is real, we still don’t know how to treat it.” IBS, fibromyalgia, leaky gut, Morgellyns, on and on it goes. Gah, don’t start me…

Common Sense December 5, 2008, 12:06 AM

Monunlogic needs to get a life!

Anonymous December 5, 2008, 1:01 AM

Parents are beyond ridiculous with sheltering their children from EVERYTHING today. When I was ten years old back in the early nineties, I went to a small local equivalent of Chuck E Cheese called “Arthur’s Castle.”

Guess what? I got the chicken pox! OH NO!

Time to shelter me, the little disease carrying pariah from your poor, special little snowflakes, right?

No, like any responsible parent would, they got me together with my friends and spread the chicken pox to them to help build their immune system and prevent the others from receiving the sickness in their adult years (which has been proven deadly if they do not contract the said disease in their childhood.)

You know what? Because of my exposure in the childhood years, I now don’t have to worry of what could happen to me now that I am an adult and obtain the same sickness; same goes for the others who caught my illness.

Cleanliness is O.K. but too much obsession over it can deplete a child’s immune system, creating resistance and newer superbugs, all because you want to shelter your youth from common germs.

And then who do you blame when a new resistant virus rears it’s head? Why you fuss and they retaliate by making even stronger chemicals which continues the cycle for weaker immune systems and stronger germs. This is not natural.

Let your kids be kids for gods sakes. That’s REAL Momlogic.

joesmom December 5, 2008, 10:36 AM

I live in NJ and none of the Chuck E. Cheese’s have ball pits that is due to the fact the McDonalds had hypodermic needles and dirty diapers in theirs. Therefore EVERYONE that had a ball pit was forced to remove them. If CEC is sooo filthy why are they still open. Jeepers in Elizabeth, NJ was closed for weeks becuase they were filthy, the health dept forced them to close. Stop making a big deal out of nothing, like someone else said i continue to go to CEC and so do the children in my family and none of us has EVER gotten sick.

Kirstie December 5, 2008, 2:59 PM

Um, Joesmom .. that’s not true. I live in central NJ and can think of at least 4 places off the top of my head, within 20 minutes of where I live, that have ball pits.

Anonymous December 5, 2008, 3:42 PM

I really hope you people are aware that 99% of bacteria are either A. harmless or B. necessary. For god’s sake, there are more bacterial cells in the human body than there are human cells. The more you shelter your kids, the more harm you do. Do you ever wonder why your children are allergic to everything under the sun or why they get sick more often than rural children?

Sir Cool December 5, 2008, 4:07 PM

I typically urinate in the ball pits. And I’m about 29 years old. Just FYI.

Anonymous December 5, 2008, 4:31 PM

They should have a 15 minute time out every two hours. Have an alarm go off and then have every worker wipe down the equipment. During that time every parent and child should wash their hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer. They should also have a rule that any noticeable sick child may not gain entrance that day.
Anna Manous

Phil McCrackin December 5, 2008, 5:11 PM

CeC is cleaner than your average hospital.

chester December 6, 2008, 2:35 AM

why would momlogic care to defame the name of chuck e cheese? he’s provided fun and a safe enviornment for children and kept them off the streets and in my lap! i mean, if the parents stop bringing their kids to my work, who will i grope in the ball pit? *sigh*

anne frank December 6, 2008, 2:40 AM

“They should have a 15 minute time out every two hours. Have an alarm go off and then have every worker wipe down the equipment. During that time every parent and child should wash their hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer. They should also have a rule that any noticeable sick child may not gain entrance that day. Anna Manous”

should we also have those children wear little ‘red crosses’ to denote who is sick and who isn’t? maybe at certain times we’ll contain all the little ‘red crosses’ to specific areas of the restaurant. i say, a great idea! we should make them prepare the pizza and sell tokens too while we sit back and enjoy our cola.

*your next*


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