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Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Would you like fecal bacteria with that?

     I recently saw a Facebook post referencing an article that appeared on delish.com, a cooking website. The Delish article referenced an article from Metro, an online alternative news site, that was titled “Poo Found on Every McDonald’s Touchscreen Tested." 
     It was a report on an investigation done by the senior lecturer in microbiology at London Metropolitan University, Dr. Paul Matewele. Dr. Matewele went around testing McDonald’s touchscreen ordering machines in the UK and found they all had fecal bacteria on them. 
     In the past he has been interviewed on the BBC to discuss the bacteria found in reused plastic water bottles. It seems all the reused water bottles he tested contained bacteria and some had mold. The tests also found low levels of more serious pathogenic bacteria which could lead to serious issues. 
     He has also conducted other tests and found bacteria in everything...like handbags, hand cream, toothbrushes, no-spill toddler drinking cups, kitchen sponges, makeup bags and brushes, ear plugs and don’t ask about your bathroom. 
     I suppose Dr. Matewele has to do something to help justify his job, but it’s hard to escape the absurdity of testing all this stuff. Our home, let alone public places, are home to an astronomical amount of bacteria. Viruses are different, of course. They can survive on surfaces for days and it only takes a few of the little boogers to make us sick. 
     As for fecal bacteria, saying they found it in McDonald’s touch screens is hype. The implication is that the screens are smeared with human feces, which, of course, they are not. 
     In any case, it’s not a big deal... fecal coliform is EVERYWHERE! Computer keyboards, kitchens (one study found kitchens had more fecal bacteria than bathrooms), office coffee cups, shopping carts, hotel rooms, your clothes, etc, etc. Every time you brush your teeth you are shoving fecal coliform into your mouth. Flush the toilet and you are misting your bathroom with fecal spray. 
     In fact, by weight, bacteria make up a third of the contents of our intestines. Bacteria are an unavoidable part of the environment and the idea of everything being germ free is absurd and pointless. The bacteria that cause food poisoning need to multiply into astronomical amounts before they can overwhelm our immune system and make us sick. 
     Advertisers create an irrational fear of germs just so they can sell their antibacterial products, or as they like to call them, “germs” which is a pretty vague term. It is the biggest marketing coup since bottled water. 
    To me, Dr. Matewele is wasting his time and creating undo concern over something that has long been known to inhabit just about any surface you can think of. 
     Besides, and this is no kidding, according to several experts, the bottom line is, assuming you are a healthy person, eating your own feces would probably not harm you. Eating someone else's feces could make you sick if they were unhealthy, but eating feces from the right person could cure your diarrheal disease. See THIS article. Obviously the thought is disgusting, but the point is that what you pick up off the screen at McDonald's is nothing about which to be alarmed.

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