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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
rogue December 6, 2008, 2:46 AM

i used to visit CEC quite often until one day an older woman tapped me on the shoulder while attempting to defeat a triceratops in “Turtles in Time”..she then informed me that the joystick does NOT go there :|

Chuck December 6, 2008, 11:30 AM

“The one place where our children should be safe to play may just cost them their lives.”

Yes it might, if you dropped an arcade machine on them. I find it hard to believe that there really are people as ignorant as you. Go swab some bacteria around your trailer. Swab your keyboard. I’m sure you’ll find much worse things than at Chucky Cheese.

Anonymous December 8, 2008, 5:10 AM

what r u talking about u went as a kid parents know what happens their with so many people go their so how do u want them to keep it clean when so many people go and are sick and get your children sick so its your fault period

Marcia December 8, 2008, 12:31 PM

I can’t believe moms still think washing hands is enough. It is not. These food establishments need to get into the 21st century as far as cleaning, extending the clean, and keeping the kids, the parents, and the employees healthy. There is a new product that can extend any clean for 90 days!! And it’s effective against all the germs we worry about. Why aren’t they using it? Moms have the power to demand it? Together and with the right products, we can protect our facilities, our homes, and our loved ones before we are affected with another outbreak. It’s not a matter of “if”…it’s a matter of “when” and “how bad”. I am a VRSA staph survivor and have dedicated myself to finding ways to prevent anyone else from having to endure what I did. You can reach me at
I’ll be glad to help.

Anonymous December 9, 2008, 1:22 PM

Kids are germy anyways,do you see where they come from? A ladys hoo-ha! EWwwwwWWww

Anonymous December 10, 2008, 12:57 AM

What I find most interesting about this piece, is that the bacteria they named were all bacteria that belonged to a group known as coliforms. Coliform contamination in food, or water supply, generally indicates fecal matter contamination. So before everyone becomes quick to blame Chucky cheese’s , I wonder what those kids are actually doing in the restrooms? (not washing hands!!!)

Anonymous December 13, 2008, 11:05 PM

I have worked at CEC for a long time and trust me, we clean. Unlike other public places we realize that children touch everything, so we clean everything. Go other places and look at things like hanging lights, decor on the walls, menus, or chair rails.

Ashlee December 14, 2008, 4:07 PM

PUP IT UP is a dangerous and unsafe place for kids…my brother hurt his spine when he went to a birthday party there and his friend Josj broke his arm the same day…at least at Chucky Cheese there no chance of breaking your bones…Ashlee

Corki T. December 18, 2008, 12:20 AM

For the Mom who’s son developed a problem after he had his face painted: I am a face painter and after each child I disinfect all my brushes and paints. I cary a small bottle of alchol and sanitiser. Just be careful who does the face painting. I also consult with the parent before painting in case the child is alergic.

Darcy January 1, 2009, 9:16 AM

People need to think of it this way. Most germs have a two to three day incubation period. Which means cathing menegitis from Chuck E. Cheese’s and being sick 2 hours later is most likely not possible. The more likely case is the child got it days before visiting that place and just happened to come down with it that day. Make sure you wash hands and things the kids touch and most of all make sure you’re kids get enough sleep 10-12 hours in a 24 hour period depending on the child’s age. If you’re not sure look up the reccomended amount of sleep for your child’s age group. The immune system works its best when the body is sleeping so sleep is vital to staying healthy!

I'm a Computer January 5, 2009, 11:46 AM

Way to instill more fear in the ignorant parents of today. You can swab just about anything in a petri dish and some sort of funk will grow from it. Go ahead, swab the keyboard you’re using right now and see what kind of junk grows. Does that mean you’ll have to bleach everything in your house as well? You shouldn’t allow magnified pictures of bacteria to scare you just because you’re uncertain of what it is and because it looks gross. Let your kids scrape their knees, catch a cold, eat candy that fell on the carpet, it will only make them stronger and give you a peace of mind. You are the parent, you do what you feel is right, not these sorts of magazines/websites that you allow to override your instinct as a parent.

Doc January 30, 2009, 12:24 PM

Do you realy think the health Dept. cares? Let there be a pandomic and the employees at the public health would be the first ones out the door. Please don’t ask me how I know, just say I have a gift….Please, PHD are staffed by people that work 1-2 hours out of the day and kick back and read the paper, or take two weeks off to take there child to the doctor. What a bunch of bozo’s, the come into CEC in Maryland the manager had her kid in there who was sick in the prep area, many people were sick after that. But if it is a employee that gets mono, flu, mersa infection. Just cancle cancle his/her insurance, its ok. Wonder how they are doing fincinaly? And it does’nt take some one with a gift to figure out it will never come back, just get bought out by some china firm, that is all chuckie Cheese was good for anyway. Redeem your son or daughter tickies for a chinia made toy? Perhaps we have some missle parts they could sell to the middle east. You think the Chuckie, observes EEOC, think again, the district manager in 2005 Richmond Va would hire the first Mexican/Russian/Centeral american that came in the door. Who cars if they could speek english, they just don’t stand up like a American would, they would drop there Indian head. Yea boss, I can do dat, even if they are a safaty risk, connect the wast water with the tap water… what happen to the Reagan Form I-99?
We have lost something in america, I hope our childern and grand childern get it back, what ever kind of Genticly modified Crap they eat.
You know I never liked lou dobbs, I always thought he was a “blow hard” if Lou were running, I would gladly work for his campain, give money, work for him.
Yes I do have family that works for WalSh** and famly that buys they nasty e-coli infested, trash. Today I have a choice, to go to CEC or shop at Walmart, today I don’t.

beanbag February 5, 2009, 7:33 PM

Far too many spelling errors for anybody to take any of what you said seriously. Seriously.

Christian March 4, 2009, 1:11 PM

LOL- salty language, huh?
You call HELL salty language? Do you take your children to church and chastize the preacher for saying that dirty word too?!?!?

PATTY March 21, 2009, 12:31 AM


May March 26, 2009, 1:18 PM

My friend spent the night and she had lice the next day we were getting ready for school and her mom called and said she had lice. We washed every single thing and sprayed stuff for the furniture and we never got it!

kp March 26, 2009, 1:20 PM

a must read…

Mrs. Jenkins March 26, 2009, 1:22 PM

I think the comment about the salty language is fake. Look at the names. Obviously made up.

Anonymous March 26, 2009, 1:30 PM


TJ March 26, 2009, 1:41 PM

I agree with some of the people on here about letting your kids go to C.C.s. I think they should go and just be kids. They invented soaps, sanitizers, and wipes just to help us keep clean. USE THEM!!!!!! If you don’t let your kids get germs or even to be sick then YOU, the parent, are hurting your child in the long run. Do you want them to get sicker? They need to be exposed to these so they can build up an immune system to help combat the germs. Just make sure they wash their hands!!!!

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