Dirty fast food play areas prompts mom to take action

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TEMPE, Ariz. – A one-woman crusade against unsanitary play areas inside fast food restaurants and a push for tougher health regulations started two months ago in Tempe.

Erin Carr-Jordan, 36, is a mother of four and an Arizona State University instructor with a PH.D. in developmental psychology.

Last April Carr-Jordan allowed her son to play on jungle gym equipment inside a Tempe fast food restaurant but what she found was not only dirty, she says it was downright disgusting.

“We noticed it was absolutely disgusting,” Carr-Jordan said. “There was not an inch without something appalling. Dirt, food, hair in wads, gang signs and swear words.”

Carr-Jordan says she complained six different times to four different managers over a month. She also took video, posted now on YouTube and called a lab to collect and test samples.

“The lab found four strands of staff, gonorrhea… stuff that would get public pools shut down.”

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.

Diloné says the franchise in question was cited and ordered to correct.

Of course not every franchise is the same but this mom is on a mission to have all held accountable and now she is taking pictures at restaurants with indoor play areas all over the city.

“This is not an Arizona problem, Chandler or Tempe,” said Carr-Jordan. “Across the board, it’s a public health issue.”

Carr-Jordan says the one place she has found squeaky clean is a Chick-Fil-A in Chandler and the owner Don Elam, is not surprised.

“We take it very seriously. Every two weeks we have it professionally-cleaned and every night we vacuum and sanitize the area,” said Elam.

It's what Carr-Jordan would like to see become a national standard. “This is a no-brainer. Everyone should work to rectify this and make it safer for kids,” said Carr-Jordan. “I’m hoping and expecting that regulation will be in place.

Already she has reached out to local and national lawmakers, requested sponsorship and is working on writing grants so she can have more lab work done all across the nation.

Most importantly, Carr-Jordan wants these family-oriented businesses to make changes because it’s the right thing to do. “Businesses in general should come forward and say we are pro children’s health and this is what we are going to do.”

So far City of Chandler, SWIMkids USA, Gold Medal gymnastics, Desert Devil Gymnastics, Aqua Tots, Kaplan University and Toy Town are just a few of the businesses who are supporting this cause and sharing this information with their parent networks.  For more information or to find out how you can get involved go to http://www.youtube.com/watchv=h6GOGJUiXVE or  www.facebook.com/update_security_info.php or email kidsplaysafe@yahoo.com.