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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
Diana Timmons March 26, 2009, 1:41 PM

Umm.. do the SAME tests at any school, church, or any place kids congregate. It just is so amusing how incredulous people get about these things… I watch parents take their sick kids into grocery stores and let the cough all over the produce, the carts, and other shoppers. I see kids wiping their noses with their hands and then reach into bowls of candy at family gatherings, and at school it’s even worse. What do people expect in establishments full of children? Take responsibility for your own kid’s health and safety. Teach them to wash their hands, carry hand wipes, and stop taking them out in public when they’re sick!

Lynn March 26, 2009, 1:43 PM

I worked for McDonalds as a manager for 19 years and you wouldn’t believe the parents of the children when it came to playing on the playground and the cleanliness of the equipment. We had parent tell the kids to urinate in the ball pit rather than go inside to the bathroom. We had parents sit in the store and were oblivious to what their kids were doing on the playground. They took craps in the slides and never told anyone. I personally witnessed a mother putting her childs dirty diaper in the ball pit because she was to damm lazy to get up and take the kid to the bathroom in the store as she was talking with her friends. We had a service that came out once a month to completely clean the equipment and sanitize the slides,ballpit and all of the equipment and when it was being done we received nothing but complaints from parent from all walks of life and income level that their darlings couldn’t use the equipment as it was still wet.Parents need to remember that the playground both inside and outside as was ours is not a babysitter and you have to be responsible for their actions. I realize there are many places that don’t take care of their equipment or clean it and you as a parent stop going but you also have an obligation to moniter your childs actions on the playsurfaces and make sure your child as well as the next are safe. No child wants to go down a slide that some kid has taken a poop in or go in a ballpit where a child of 8 or 9 years of age has urinated in or a parent has put a childs poopy diaper in. All suffer then because the the playground has to be shut down and recleaned when the company can get there.It takes work from all of you parents store where playgrounds are and yes your children to keep them safe and clean.

Mary Cranford March 26, 2009, 1:52 PM

Hi Honey,
Do not take my grandchildren to CHUCK E CHEESE,I am afraid to go to any fast food restr ever again

TJ March 26, 2009, 1:59 PM

Don’t forget to wipe off the tables, seats, and highchairs before you use them if your so worried. Forgot to add that.

libbi March 26, 2009, 2:21 PM

im a kid and i loveeeee chuckie cheeeezes i dont care bout the germs

major March 26, 2009, 2:38 PM

FREAKING BABIES… GERMS, SICKNESS ARE ARE PART OF LIFE… GET OVER IT

LW March 26, 2009, 2:40 PM

At our last and final visit to CC my daughter jumped on a toilet covered in BLOOD!!!!! I have never been more horrified in my life. We had to do HIV and other blood born disease testing.

The teenage manager had no idea what to do. We received a free pizza and tokens. The home office gave us such a run around. The only restitution that was offered was medical expenses and because she was fine we received nothing else. Even though a 5 year old girl had to go through a tramatic experience.

major March 26, 2009, 2:43 PM

relax, baby ladies… germs are a part of life, always have been… thats part of the reason we have vaccinations now……. when inquiring about CEC…ask yourself…. is every inch of YOUR body ready to be eaten ;)

Anonymous March 26, 2009, 2:45 PM

This is absolutely ridiculous. How lazy, uneducated, biased and ignorant do you have to be to be a part of Momlogic? From reading a couple of articles by Momlogic, I’ve come the sensible and reasonable conclusion that Momlogic is nothing more than an internet terrorist organization. Think of it this way: They abuse and distribute heavily biased information, they use scare tactics to get people to adhere to their opinions, they avoid posting any related content that would be a negative spin on their side of an issue. Humans have immune systems that actually work, if you can imagine that. Children are supposed to get sick occasionally; it increases their resistence to strains of bacteria, it increases their general immune system strength, and it prevents them from contracting the same/similar strain of bacteria when they’re adults, at which point it really could be life-threatening. In this Chuck E. Cheeses article, I did not see anything that represented a control group, or any attempt to show any information of any other area. Momlogic is essentially logically corrupted and biased, almost as bad as Fox News…

Cathy Brown March 26, 2009, 3:25 PM

I think you will find that anywhere, a school playground a park a school bus any restaurant, you just need to be sure to wash hands, I think the bleach would be worse than the germs, I don’t let my kids eat of a table anywhere, the sanitizers are probably worse than the germs!! Always, always use plates, napkins and wash hands!!

Joanie March 26, 2009, 3:26 PM

these places are not the only places that maybe full of germs how about buses, schools, outdoor playgrounds, subways, buffets, resturants the list can go on and on and on. So we cant just complain about the indoor children play places. we may as well just stick our kids in bubbles if we complain about germs all the time.

Joanie March 26, 2009, 3:28 PM

these places are not the only places that maybe full of germs how about buses, schools, outdoor playgrounds, subways, buffets, resturants the list can go on and on and on. So we cant just complain about the indoor children play places. we may as well just stick our kids in bubbles if we complain about germs all the time.

K March 26, 2009, 3:59 PM

Oh puh-lease. Such wimpy, baby parents breeding wimpy kids. *gag* You have germs all over your house, car, school, daycare. You don’t think kids wipe their snotty noses/shove their hand in their mouth/scratch their bottoms and then run around and touch other kids without thinking about it. Of course they do. I can’t even take this article serisouly because there was no control. Did they investiage the writer’s home? Car? A bar? A playground? A school desk? Nope. Of course not. It’s just fear mongering by moms who want to keep their precious little babies in some sort of wierd protective bubble. Why not do something productive and teach kids about good sanitary habits? Why is it always someone else’s fault now-a-days?

Anonymous March 26, 2009, 4:13 PM

I work at CEC in the game room. When I first started working there I was sick ALL THE TIME. I’m not suprised with this. however every night, every game is cleaned with sanitizer, then cleaned again the cleaning surface spray of somesort. The sky tubes are also cleaned regularly, but with so many kids of all ages in there every single day, it is no suprise. I think even schools would have the same problem.

SEAuENtea March 26, 2009, 4:56 PM

I like to go to CEC when i have influenza, its my way of helping those that can’t afford the flu shot. Consider that as my social service quota for the year, and by the way Sundays are the best time to to this since all the churchies go there when its over… haaaachewwww

lisa March 26, 2009, 5:14 PM

kids that are not compleatly potty trained should be wearing diapers out in public even when they are three or four years old,so that way ther will be no pee on equipment at chuck e cheese.

tammy March 26, 2009, 5:33 PM

i agree with lisa on kids wearing diapers at cec.They have diapers that fits kindergartens,like pampers size 7 which is better than pull-ups. it is safe for everybody.some kids don’t mind anyways.

Country Boy March 27, 2009, 12:52 PM

Is this article sponsored by Lysol?! This is your usual example of scaremongering. I grew up around livestock as a kid and my mother never used hand sanitizers. Although I was required to wash my hands after the bathroom/before eating etc. I was left to get into all sorts.
And you know what? No surprise; I was often ill (stomach bugs mainly) BUT once I got to about six I was never ill. Now as an adult I have a cast iron constitution, and whilst everyone around me is dropping like flies I am never sick. It sucks to have a sick kid but they will appreciate it in the future, I promise you.

nano March 27, 2009, 4:06 PM

I wonder how these specimens have been taken…..only lab techician are qualified and trained to take these specimens.. a mere “swab” taken by an untrained person could be easily contaminated from the surrounding atmosphere…..all these organisms listed seem out of logic….

Anonymous March 28, 2009, 8:11 PM

1. Hell is a bad word and I don’t care if this is the internet or not.
2. I get being OVER-germatic but still, if a place makes lots of people sick, uh you kinda need to clean it.
I went to C.C like a year ago, and..I couldn’t stand it, it was so insanely GROSS, seemed like they never cleaned at all there, come on, would cleaning once a week or once a month hurt that bad?


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