WARNING - Fast-Food play areas starts crusade by Chandler Az Mom!

A visit to a Tempe McDonald's PlayPlace with her children so disgusted Chandler mom Erin Carr Jordan that she crawled inside colorful tunnels to film the grime, then posted her experience on YouTube.

Her outrage launched a personal crusade against unsanitary play areas and a push for tougher health regulations.

Carr Jordan, 36, is a mother of four and an Arizona State University instructor with a Ph.D. in developmental psychology. On her first visit to the McDonald's at Priest Drive and Baseline Road in April, her 3-year-old son asked to go on the slide. She followed him. "Inside I saw filth and grime coupled with clumps of dirt, matted hair and rotting food . . . the entire structure was riddled with swear words and gang signs," she said.

She pulled her children out of the area and notified the manager. The next day she returned, alone, and said the play area was still dirty. Over the next month, Carr Jordan complained several times and photographed the conditions.

"I was so appalled that I spent my own money and hired a lab to run tests," she said.

According to the test report by Legend Technical Services, Inc., her samples contained "opportunistic human pathogens" that can cause disease and are found in fecal material, mucus, matted hair and food.

"I was shocked by the results," Carr Jordan, said.

Calls to Shane Thompson, the Tempe McDonald's franchise owner, were referred to the fast-food chain's Western regional office in Colorado. Officials there declined to answer questions but marketing manager Blake Wynter sent an e-mail statement attributed to Thompson: "As the owner of this restaurant, and a father of three kids, I'm disappointed we let this customer and others down. I sincerely apologize. We take these matters very seriously. All concerns have been addressed. We've also put the necessary steps in place to ensure these violations do not happen again."

The statement said his franchise had "strict requirements for daily cleaning of PlayPlaces," but neither he nor Wynter would answer questions about those requirements or how the play structures were cleaned.

Carr Jordan showed the reports to microbiologist Annissa Furr of Phoenix. Furr, a Ph.D. who teaches at several local colleges, said the noted pathogens can cause infections and skin abscesses. Children with health issues and weakened immune systems are most at risk, she said.

"I have a 2-year-old, and this changed my viewpoint," she said.

Furr said she intended to help Carr Jordan draft and promote state legislation that would require health agencies to more closely regulate cleanliness in restaurant play areas. Steam cleaning the playground equipment is an effective sanitizing method "and is not that difficult to do," she said.

Maricopa County Environmental Services inspects restaurants for health code compliance, which includes a visual inspection of indoor playgrounds, said Johnny Diloné, spokesman for the department. However, playgrounds must only appear clean to pass the inspection, and a dirty one is considered a minor "non-food" violation. Department records show inspectors responded to a complaint about dirty playground equipment at the Tempe McDonald's on May 12 and that the operator was ordered to "correct prior to next routine inspection."

A subsequent inspection on May 20 read "all violations have been corrected."

Charles Gerba, a University of Arizona professor with a Ph.D. in microbiology, doesn't know Carr Jordan but said it was well-known among experts in his field that children's playgrounds are one of the most germ-plagued environments and the pathogens can cause disease. Indoor playgrounds that tend to be warm and moist promote bacterial growth.

"If I had a small child, I'd be hesitant to let them play in there," he said.

Gerba, who co-authored a study of bacteria on public surfaces for the International Journal of Environmental Health Research, agrees that more stringent government health regulations governing cleanliness of restaurant playgrounds would help.

These days, Carr Jordan said she checks out cleaning protocols before she takes her children to playgrounds, and has become a regular at the Chick-fil-A on West Chandler Boulevard.

Franchise owner Don Elam said employees wipe, sanitize and vacuum the area nightly. Every two weeks, a professional cleaning company scrubs the place.

"Most parents assume that when you take your child to a place like McDonald's that it's safe," said Carr Jordan.

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We should really be grateful to Erin Carr-Jordan who has been on a national crusade to clean up fast-food play areasThumbup.She claims that pathogens are present in the play areas that threaten children's health.Children Play Secure is a nonprofit foundation Carr-Jordan started to call for the cleanup of maze play areas. Carr-Jordan has been called "disruptive" by managers at many McDonald's stores.Moreover,I also don't expect big corporations slapping lawsuits on people for raising the questions and asking them to be held accountable for areas that need improvement.I think there's nothing wrong with parents trying to help make other parents aware of the health risks to their kids.I've read the article here: McDonald's bans maze-swabbing mom from Arizona locations

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