Bacteria Found On McDonald’s Touchscreens Raises Concerns; Experts Call Risks Manageable

BurgerladDo touchscreens on vending machines and micro market kiosks pose a health and safety issue? The question came to light in late November when a British newspaper reported that order touchscreens at several McDonald’s restaurants were found to contain potentially hazardous bacteria. Numerous U.S. news outlets reported the story.

While no illnesses were reported from the touchscreens, the discovery of bacteria raises a question for companies that provide customer facing devices – such as vending machines and kiosks – in a foodservice environment. Vending Technology News interviewed experts who agreed the risk posed by bacteria on touchscreens is manageable.

Larry Eils, a Knowledge Source Partner for health and safety for the National Automatic Merchandising Association, said he does not see the bacteria found on the touchscreens as a serious health issue for vending and micro market operators.

“I think they just need to be vigilant and make sure during your routine cleaning when you’re visiting a stop that the touchscreen is part of the cleaning procedure now,” Eils said. “We’ve always had touch buttons on the machine – those are just as dirty.”

Eils noted that it has long been common practice for vending servicers to clean the machine with every visit. As for the touchscreen, “you just need to be careful what you clean it with,” he said. He said vending and micro market operators should find out from equipment manufacturers what products they recommend for cleaning touchscreens.

365 Retail Markets, a micro market provider, encourages operators to use anti-bacterial wipes and a general household window cleaner like Windex or similar products, said Ralf Lindackers, the company’s vice president of engineering.

“Our customer support team often gets asked what cleaners can be used on the kiosks, and since the touchscreen is basically a glass surface, an anti-bacterial cleaner will do the job,” he said.

Micro markets, in contrast to McDonald’s order kiosks, are usually in a nonpublic environment, meaning a smaller number of people are using the kiosk, Lindackers said. Therefore, there is a lower risk of contamination.

“We are not aware of any specific inspections of the kiosk, ” Lindackers said. “However, we believe that the state or health department inspects the micro markets on a regular basis, and the kiosk is a fixture in any micro market, thus subject to inspection.”

“We do not believe that the common touchscreen in a micro market presents any health risks,” Lindackers said. “We have not heard of any epidemic which was caused by kiosks, however, we would advise anyone to wash their hands before eating.”

Bernick’s, a refreshment services provider serving the Twin Cities, will be requiring servicers to clean kiosks using disinfectants with every service visit, according to Reed Stevens, the company’s director of vending. The service representatives were cleaning the kiosks prior to the recent news about McDonald’s, Stevens said, but they had not been using a disinfectant.

Food safety inspections for restaurants and foodservice operations are conducted by state and local governments.

Eils said he is not aware of any state or local government mandating touchscreen sanitation.

By Jeff Adair, Editor

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