McDonald's Touchscreen Menus Are Covered in Poop, Report Finds

Joe Raedle, Getty Images
Joe Raedle, Getty Images

Would you like a side of poop with your McGriddle? If you use the touchscreen monitors at McDonald’s to order it, you might not have much of a choice. In a recent investigation by the UK newspaper Metro in collaboration with London Metropolitan University, researchers found fecal matter on every touchscreen they tested across eight different McDonald's restaurants.

They swabbed the surfaces of touchscreen devices that had recently been rolled out at eight McDonald’s locations in the UK (six in London and two in Birmingham). All of them contained coliforms, which are bacteria found in digestive tracts and feces. A sample from one of the screens also tested positive for Staphylococcus aureus, a bacteria that can cause skin infections, food poisoning, and occasionally more serious conditions like blood poisoning and toxic shock syndrome. Listeria and Proteus bacteria, which can also pose health threats, were detected on touchscreens in a few restaurants as well.

Paul Matewele, a microbiology lecturer at London Metropolitan University, said he was shocked to see such a high prevalence of gut and fecal bacteria on the touchscreens. Their use in fast food establishments is becoming increasingly common, but as this analysis shows, they do come with risks.

“Touchscreen technology is being used more and more in our daily lives but these results show people should not eat food straight after touching them. They are unhygienic and can spread disease,” Matewele told Metro. “Someone can be very careful about their own hygiene throughout the day but it could all be undone by using a touchscreen machine once.”

A McDonald’s spokesman said that the restaurants clean their self-order screens often throughout the day, but Matewele said the disinfectant must not be strong enough to kill all of the bacteria. However, as Newsweek notes, the sample size for the study was quite small. It only tested touchscreens at eight out of roughly 1300 McDonald's restaurants in the UK.

The more something is touched by multiple people, the more likely it is to harbor harmful germs. Beyond fast food joints, bacterial hotbeds include elevator buttons, office doors, and airport security bins. If you're going to be touching any of these surfaces, just be sure to wash your hands before eating. Big Macs included.

[h/t Metro]

11 Squeaky-Clean Facts About Spit

iStock/fotolinchen
iStock/fotolinchen

Though most people find the thought of saliva rather disgusting, spit plays a vital role in our lives. It allows us to comfortably chew, swallow, and digest. It fights off bacteria in our mouths and elsewhere, and leads the mouth’s bold fight against cavities. Here are 11 facts that might have you reconsidering that unsung hero of bodily fluids: spit.

1. Spit is mostly water.

Saliva consists of about 99 percent water. The other 1 percent is made up of electrolytes and organic substances, including digestive enzymes and small quantities of uric acid, cholesterol, and mucins (the proteins that form mucus).

2. There's a medical standard for how much spit you should have.

Healthy individuals accumulate between 2 and 6 cups of spit a day. That’s without stimulation from activities like eating or chewing gum, which open the spit floodgates [PDF].

3. Saliva production has a circadian rhythm.

Your body typically produces the most saliva in the late afternoon, and the least at night. Salivation is controlled by the autonomic nervous system (much like your heartbeat), meaning it’s an unconscious process.

4. There are five different kinds of spit.

Salivation has five distinct phases, most triggered by the passage of food through the body. Not all of them are a good thing. The first type of salivation is cephalic, the kind that occurs when you see or smell something delicious. The buccal phase is the body’s reflexive response to the actual presence of food in the mouth (which aids in swallowing). The esophageal involves the stimulation of the salivary glands as food moves through the esophagus. The gastric phase happens when something irritates your stomach—like when you’re just about to puke. The intestinal phase is triggered by a food that doesn’t agree with you passing through the upper intestine.

5. Spit can battle bacteria.

There’s a reason the phrase “lick your wounds” came about. Spit is full of infection-battling white blood cells. And, according to a 2015 study in the journal Blood, neutrophils—a type of white blood cell—are more effective at killing bacteria if they come from saliva than from anywhere else in the body. So adding saliva to a wound gives the body a powerful backup as it fights off infection.

6. Spit keeps you from getting cavities.

The calcium, fluoride, and phosphate in saliva strengthen your teeth. Spit also fights cavity-causing bacteria, washes away bits of food, and neutralizes plaque acids, reducing tooth decay and cavities. That’s why chewing gum gets dentists’ stamp of approval—chewing increases the flow of saliva, thus protecting your oral health.

7. You need spit if you want to taste anything.

Saliva acts like a solvent for tastes, ferrying dissolved deliciousness to the sites of taste receptors. It also keeps those receptors healthy by preventing them from drying out and protecting them from bacterial infection. Many people who have dry mouth (or xerostomia) find their sense of taste affected by their oral cavity’s parched conditions. Because many medications have dry mouth as a side effect, scientists have developed artificial saliva sprays that mimic the lubrication of real spit.

8. Swapping spit exchanges millions of bacteria.

A 10-second kiss involves the transfer of some 80 million bacteria, one study found.

9. People aren’t born drooling.

Babies don’t start drooling until they’re 2 to 4 months old. Unfortunately, they also don’t really know what to do with their spit. They don’t have full control of the muscles of their mouth until they’re around 2 years old, so they can’t really swallow it effectively. Which is why we invented bibs.

10. Stress can leave you spit-less.

The body’s fight-or-flight response is designed to give you the energy and strength needed to overcome a near-death experience, like, say, running into a bear or giving a big presentation at work. Your blood pressure goes up, the heart beats faster, and the lungs take in more oxygen. This is not the time to sit around and digest a meal, so the digestion system slows down production, including that of saliva.

11. A lack of spit was once used as an admission of guilt.

In some ancient societies, saliva was used as a basic lie detector. In ancient India, accused liars had to chew grains of rice. If they were telling the truth, they would have enough saliva to spit them back out again. If someone was lying, their mouth would go dry and the rice would stick in their throat.

Bug Bombs May Be More Dangerous to You Than the Cockroaches You Want to Kill

iStock.com/BarnabyChambers
iStock.com/BarnabyChambers

The resilience of German cockroaches is no myth. Their diet consists of basically anything, from actual food to flakes of skin and wallpaper. They’re small enough to squeeze out of sight. They can produce up to 400 offspring in a single year. And they laugh at bug bombs for houses.

According to a new study, bug bombs are not only ineffective at killing German cockroaches; they’re probably more dangerous to other occupants of the residence. Namely, you.

The study, conducted by North Carolina State University entomologist Zachary DeVries and published in BMC Public Health, recently shed some light on the issue. DeVries and his team solicited the participation of 30 residential homes with documented cockroach infestations and used gel bait traps in 10 of them. For the rest, researchers used total release foggers, also known as a bug bombs, that release airborne pesticides affecting a bug's nervous system. To assess the efficacy of each, cockroaches were captured and kept near the site of the treatment to maximize the chances of the bugs receiving exposure to them.

Within a month, the gel bait traps reduced German cockroach populations in treated homes by two-thirds or more. Homes treated with bug bombs had no discernible effect on the roaches. Some sites actually saw an increase in the bugs.

German cockroaches have a sturdy constitution when it comes to poison. The bug bombs, researchers noted, are no guarantee of providing a toxic plume even if it reaches the roach. And even that can prove difficult, since the bombs can’t spread through all areas of the house where the bugs might be found. Gel bait traps entice the cockroaches to enter by offering a sweet smell. Consumption of the poison or entrapment results in mass cockroach expiration.

Aside from being a waste of money, bug bombs carry a secondary threat of being toxic to humans. The release of chemicals into a living space can be irritating for some, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention documenting several cases related to exposure. Sometimes, people overestimate the number of bombs needed, saturating their indoor living space with breathable chemicals. They can also leave residue on surfaces like kitchen counters.

Ultimately, gel bait traps are a reasonable solution for mild infestations. If your problem is so severe you’re considering bombing your house with chemicals, it’s probably best to call a professional instead.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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