Have you ever eaten at the mall food court and had your kids drop stuff on the table and say ‘hey don’t eat anything that falls off of your tray, the tables are filthy!’? Well, it turns out that the trays themselves are no better! According to a non-scientific study done by the CBC:
Swabs taken from trays in food courts at three malls were sent to University of British Columbia microbiologist Bob Hancock, who analyzed the samples. The malls involved were Pacific Centre in downtown Vancouver, Park Royal in West Vancouver and Metrotown in Burnaby
“We saw as many bacteria on some food trays as we saw on a toilet,” said Hancock.
Swabs were taken from a gas station toilet for comparison and lab technicians did find similar types and amounts of pathogens.
Hancock said that one of the bacteria found in abundance on some food trays could be particularly dangerous.
“There was a fairly large number of a bacteria called acinetobacter,” Hancock said. “Acinetobacter is one of the superbugs in our society that’s causing major problems in individuals throughout the world because it’s so resistant to antibiotics.”
According to the scientist who studied the samples, the results are no cause for immediate panic:
Despite the presence of some serious pathogens, they are not a major concern for healthy people, Hancock said.
“The number of bacteria that are transferred from a tray, even if it’s in the range of hundreds of bacteria, they’re not sufficient to cause disease because we have very efficient systems in our body for getting rid of bacteria.”
However, if you were thinking ‘hey, aren’t food services regulated?’ … well, they are, but there is a caveat:
Mall administrators said that while local health authorities do set the same standards for cleanliness in food courts as they do in restaurants, standards are not set for trays themselves because they aren’t meant to be in direct contact with food.
Which is why I am glad my family started using the trays solely as transport and using the disposable wrappers as prophylactics against all of the stuff on the trays and tables in those places.
What was your worst food court filth experience?
UPDATE: I originally simply searched for a basic food court image and pulled one that looked really cool. I didn’t realize until looking later that it was the Canal Walk shops in South Africa, which was indicated in the comments.
My intent was NOT to imply anything about the Canal Walk shops, and the article states that the study was conducted in Canada. Indeed everything I have heard about the Canal Walk indicates it is an amazing place – and just how cool the food court looked was actually part of why that image drew my attention.
Nonetheless, I don’t want to appear to be casting a bad light on the Canal Walk – or any specific food court – so I have removed the image and replaced it with a generic food tray. I apologize for any misunderstandings.