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McPathogens: Are McDonalds’ Order Kiosks Clean? Another Look

Can rebuttals exposing fake news be fake news themselves? Judge for yourself

In a previous post, McDonald’s, meet McPathogens, I quoted an analysis of wipings from McDonald’s automated order kiosk screens. Commenting on the results of his investigation late last year, senior lecturer in microbiology at London Metropolitan University Paul Matewele told media, “We were all surprised how much gut and fecal bacteria there was on the touch-screen machines. These cause the kind of infections that people pick up in hospitals.”

Since the story broke, I have noticed McDonald’s employees wiping down the kiosk screens the same way they wipe tables but I do not know if that practice predates the story. At any rate, here is a rebuttal:

No. There is no brown, smelly fecal matter covering McDonald’s touchscreens…

Because we have a digestive system (complete with acid and enzymes) and an immune system, it is nearly impossible for one or two bacteria to cause disease. Instead, a person usually needs to ingest hundreds, thousands, or even millions of bacteria to become sick (with a foodborne illness, anyway). Unfortunately, the researcher didn’t bother to report how much bacteria he found.

Alex Berezow, “Relax, McDonald’s Touchscreen Menus Aren’t Covered In Poop” at American Council on Science and Health

The rebuttal tags the original report as fake news (“total lies”).

I shared the rebuttal with Mind Matters News editor Denyse O’Leary who responded, “How do you know that a rebuttal is not itself ‘fake news’?”

While, she stressed, Berezow seems to be doing an honest investigation based on facts available to him, rebuttals can be backed by corporate influence or at least shaped by it. A lot depends on the facts available to the journalist.

She’s right. Now I don’t have certainty either way. But there’s this:

I snapped a picture of a kiosk screen shown here during a recent visit to a McDonald’s in Waco, Texas. The picture is taken at an angle where smudge leavings are most visible. I have no evidence of poop on the screen but encourage you to wash your hands between ordering and handling your Egg McMuffin.

See also: McDonald’s, meet McPathogens, (Robert J. Marks)


Robert J. Marks II

Director, Senior Fellow, Walter Bradley Center for Natural & Artificial Intelligence
Besides serving as Director, Robert J. Marks Ph.D. hosts the Mind Matters podcast for the Bradley Center. He is Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Baylor University. Marks is a Fellow of both the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) and the Optical Society of America. He was Charter President of the IEEE Neural Networks Council and served as Editor-in-Chief of the IEEE Transactions on Neural Networks. He is coauthor of the books Neural Smithing: Supervised Learning in Feedforward Artificial Neural Networks (MIT Press) and Introduction to Evolutionary Informatics (World Scientific). For more information, see Dr. Marks’s expanded bio.

McPathogens: Are McDonalds’ Order Kiosks Clean? Another Look

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