Fast-food playground vigilante gets help from lawmakers

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX -- She's the Valley mom who's made it her mission to expose filthy playgrounds at fast-food restaurants and now she's getting help from local lawmakers to clean them up.

Initially, Dr. Erin Carr-Jordan would bring the dirty little problem to the attention of franchise owners and corporations, but all that got her was banned from some local McDonald's restaurants. But now she's got the attention of lawmakers all across the country, including Arizona, prepared to hold these restaurants responsible.

“I've been to McDonald's, Burger King, Chuck E. Cheese, Peter Piper ... they're absolutely disgusting and unsafe all across the county. The only one that consistently is good is Chick-fil-A," Carr-Jordan said. “It's a nationwide public-health problem that affects children.”

Carr-Jordan first discovered the problem during a restroom stop at a local McDonald's. Her son asked if he could take a trip down the slide. She said yes for the first -- and last -- time.

“These indoor playgrounds are absolutely disgusting and unsafe all around the country,” Carr-Jordan said.

She’s now visited and tested some 30 indoor playgrounds in Arizona and about 75 nationwide. In almost every single place, she is finding the same thing.

“I've found fecal contamination. I find Staphlococcus Aureus, which is potentially MRSA," she said. "I found E.coli, I have found Pseudomonas, the No. 1 cause of hospital infections and potentially fatal.”

The problem is Arizona has no standards in place for indoor playground equipment. That may soon change, at least in Maricopa County.

“We fully anticipate incorporating a standard of inspection including the playgrounds as part of the overall rest inspection grade,” said Maricopa County Supervisor Fulton Brock.

Restaurants in Maricopa County are given grades A through F depending on the results of their heath inspection. Brock believes the cleanliness of indoor playgrounds should be considered in that grade. He said restaurants need to be more aggressive in keeping their playgrounds clean and hopefully soon inspectors will be holding them accountable.

“We go in and swab kitchen areas, we've also included restrooms. Why not incorporate playground areas, too?” Brock said.

Carr-Jordan has only been on this mission since April, but already several states have pending legislation.

“Texas is considering something. Arizona, Illinois, California are also moving forward,” she said.

Brock will be meeting with the Maricopa County Health Department this spring and hopes to have these adjustments made to the health code approved and in effect sooner than later.

You can visit to keep up with Carr-Jordan’s nonprofit organization, Kids Play Safe, and the strides made with legislation across the country. You can also find a list of pictures and videos of some of the indoor playgrounds Carr-Jordan has visited, as well as the results of her tests.