Throughout our series we've tested shopping carts, public restroom handles and restaurant playgrounds. Now, we put restaurant booster chairs to the test.
"We always look for kid friendly restaurants," says Lisa Taylor. By kid friendly, Lisa means germ friendly. Before putting her kids into booster seats, she makes sure there aren't any leftovers in the chairs. "Mainly just crumbs and little greasy fingerprints from the kids before us," she explains. Those are just some of the things Lisa has found on restaurant booster chairs .
We wanted to know about those germs Lisa can't see. So we went to seven popular restaurants:T.G.I. Friday's , Joe's Crab Shack, Mr.. Gatti's, Jason's Deli, Johnny Carino's, Furr'sFamilyDining and Red Lobster. We swabbed booster chairs at each one.
"It's interesting what we found," says Rita Yee, a microbiologist at University Medical Center. After a few days of developing our cultures she tells us some of the seats had less germs than others. Let's start with Furr's Family Dining. "This is what Furr's looks like," she shows us. Rita says these are large colonies of normal human and environmental bacteria. "So it looks like it's more growth," she explains.
Joe's Crab Shack had few organisms growing. "It didn't look too bad," says Rita. In fact Joe's had the least amount of growth, the other seafood restaurant we tested, Red Lobster, was also safe. "Here's Red Lobster, it's looking good too, all just normal type things," he points out.
Bacteria from Carino's looked suspicious so Rita did some further testing to make sure it wasn't harmful. "I made sure there wasn't a stapharius in this and there's not," she says.
Jason's Deli also had quite a bit of growth but all of it was harmless. "All of this is still environmental," says Rita.
Now let's take a look at some of the more soiled booster seats we tested. "The next one is Mr.Gatti's," she says. This restaurant had more growth than any we tested but nothing was harmful. "if you notice there's different sizes, different colors," points out Rita.
Finally we get to T.G.I Friday's, this one had a large amount of growth with a few surprises. "It also had a fungus growing on there," says Rita. If your child comes in contact with fungus like this Rita says it could be harmful especially to those with weakened immune systems."They may develop an infection and then of course seek a physician's care," she explains.
Overall, Rita says our findings were harmless. "We didn't find any potential bad bacteria so that was good," says Rita.
But Lisa isn't taking any chances. Before placing her kids in booster seats she gives them a good wipe down. "It's just one of those things you do as a mom to keep your kids safe, make sure they are all clean so you don't go home with germs," says Lisa.
We spoke with employees from each restaurant we tested. All tell us they wipe the high chairs with sanitizer several times a day.
NewsChannel 11 Special Reports