Most stores these days have a "self-serve" option. They let you do your own checkout without having to interact with a cashier. There's been a legitimate argument that these machines are stealing jobs from people who need them, because they're essentially eliminating those cashier positions all together.
You usually only see these stations at retail locations, because it's hard to have them at a restaurant, but McDonald's found a way to make it work. Over the last couple of years, the fast-food chain introduced self-order touchscreen stations, where guests can pick every part of their meal, pay, and then pick up their order at the counter.
Unfortunately, that dwelling time might also be exposing you to something pretty gross.
A study was conducted in the UK that looked at how clean the self-order machines at McDonald's really are. Stations from eight different branches in the UK were tested, and the results were pretty gross. Every single screen in the study tested positive for fecal matter.
"We were all surprised how much gut and fecal bacteria there was on the touchscreen machines," Dr. Paul Matewele, senior lecturer in microbiology at London Metropolitan University, said. "These cause the kind of infections that people pick up in hospitals."
"For instance Enterococcus faecalis is part of the flora of gastrointestinal tracts of healthy humans and other mammals," Dr. Matewele noted. "It is notorious in hospitals for causing hospital acquired infections."
One of the most concerning discoveries was that of staphylococcus, which is "so contagious," it can lead to Toxic Shock Syndrome. Other bacteria found were listeria, klebsiella and proteus.
"Seeing Staphylococcus on these machines is worrying because it is so contagious," Dr. Matewele continued. "It starts around people's noses, if they touch their nose with their fingers and then transfer it to the touchscreen someone else will get it, and if they have an open cut which it gets into, then it can be dangerous."
A McDonald's spokesperson said in an emailed statement: "Our self-order screens are cleaned frequently throughout the day with a sanitizer solution. All of our restaurants also provide facilities for customers to wash their hands before eating."
Dr. Matewele points out that it's not really the fault of McDonald's for all this bacteria. In fact, it's the way society has become dependent on technology.
"Touchscreen technology is being used more and more in our daily lives but these results show people should not eat food straight after touching them, they are unhygienic and can spread disease," Dr. Matewle mentioned. "Someone can be very careful about their own hygiene throughout the day but it could all be undone by using a touchscreen machine once."
It's pretty gross to think of all the bacteria that could be sitting on those McDonald's screens, especially since we eat our food pretty soon after interacting with them.
[H/T: Metro UK]