The perils of automating restaurants

An unexpected side effect of automating fast food restaurants may be the threat to human health posed by touch-screen technology.

Traces of faeces have been found on every single McDonald’s touchscreen swabbed in an investigation by

Samples were taken from the new machines that have been rolled out at restaurants across the country – every one of them had coliforms.

Senior lecturer in microbiology at London Metropolitan University Dr Paul Matewele said: ‘We were all surprised how much gut and faecal bacteria there was on the touchscreen machines. 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. It is notorious in hospitals for causing hospital acquired infections.’

Unsuspecting diners choose their food on the touchscreens then head to the server to pick up their burgers more often than not without washing their hands.

A screen at one branch was found to have staphylococcus, a bacteria that can cause blood poisoning and toxic shock syndrome.

There’s more at the link.

A big part of the problem, of course, is that hygiene standards differ between individuals and communities.  Some regard frequent hand-washing and/or sanitation as the norm;  others don’t.  When everyone’s using the same touch-screen facilities, cross-contamination is inevitable.

I hadn’t thought about this when commenting in previous articles on the rise of automation and its threat to jobs.  Perhaps a new job might emerge – “touch-screen sanitizer”!



  1. I see the advent of a new pocket tool riding right alongside the pens and mechanical pencils many people carry, the touch screen stylus.
    Pen shape with a pocket clip and a soft rubber or plastic rounded tip.
    The practice of chewing on the tip like some do with pencils would definitely be contra indicated.

  2. I can see a stand with sani-naps next to all touch screens… 🙂 You want nasty, try the pushbars of carts in grocery stores!!!

  3. I can't help but think of the phone sanitizers in the B Arc from The Restaurant at the End of the Universe.

    And note that the civilization they were sent away from actually got killed off from a disease contracted from an unsanitized phone.

  4. Those bacteria are EVERYWHERE, including your cell phone. Another stupid study claiming that water is wet.

  5. Maybe Douglas Adams was more prescient than he knew when he wrote about a massive die off caused by the absence of the people who used to sanitize public telephones.

    I do have to wonder how people get into the restaurant to face this pest-hole of a screen without ever touching anything including the door handles.

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