Thursday February 1, 2001

Fast Food Trays

Bussing a tray in a fast food restaurant. Fancy food courts and fast food chains serve-up the quickest meals in town. Who hasn't dipped a fallen fry in ketchup or nibbled a nugget directly from the tray? But before you shovel it in, you should know: those trays may be carrying more than just food: germs, bacteria, even fecal organisms. We wanted to know why, so went undercover to find out.

And the results of our in-depth investigation are well, disgusting. We found things like dirt, grease, saliva, skin, and those foul fecal organisms on some trays. Microbiologist Dr. Margie Morgan examined 20 sterile swabs we used to test food trays that were "supposed" to be clean. She says, "There are multiple organisms on all of the plates. Ninety percent of the food trays grew significant organisms."

We swabbed plastic platters at several shopping malls and popular fast food chains. Dr. Morgan was so shocked, she decided to conduct her own little experiment and swabbed the floor of her own lab! She says, "And you can see there's fewer organisms on the floor, so it'd be cleaner eating off our floor than it would be on these food trays."

When we confronted the restaurants, one Jack In The Box manager didn't want to come clean about the human skin and filth on his trays. McDonalds was the worst. Trays we tested at two different McDonalds had fecal material on them. At Burger King we found lots of bacteria. And at KFC we found one clean tray but another one had skin, saliva, and dirt on it.

When we told customers about finding fecal material and other nasty germs, they weren't too thrilled.

How do you stay safe? Make sure the tray appears clean, if not demand a new one. If food drops onto the tray, don't pick it back up and eat it.

Here's the EXTRA info. If you think those paper liners protect your tray, think again. We found that dirty trays stacked on clean paper make the paper dirty too.