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Aug 13th: Bugs à la carte: Microbial contamination of electronic menus

Increasing use of electronic menus in restaurants raises questions about possible spread of infection through this technology.  This issue is reviewed in a recent paper

Previous studies have highlighted the importance of correct hygienic practices to prevent menu contamination but electronic menus have not been considered. The risk of microbial contamination of touch screens has been mainly evaluated in the healthcare environment where it has been shown that tablet computers can act as fomites and as reservoirs for potentially infectious agents. Transfer of microorganisms between hands and electronic devices have been reported also in the kitchens. Common skin and gastrointestinal tract colonizers such as coagulase negative Staphylococci and Enterococci have been shown to be frequently present on touch screen devices, suggesting that the main sources of contamination was the users’ fingers and not the environment in which the device was used. Furthermore, the number of users has been shown to be proportional to microorganism abundance on personal and public electronic devices.

So far, there is no generally accepted guidance on how to reduce microbial contamination on mobile devices. Manufacturers recommend cleaning tablet devices and phone displays with only a soft, lint-free cloth, avoiding aerosol sprays, solvents, or abrasives, but a study demonstrated that tablet can still host microorganisms after cleaning according to manufacturer&;s instructions. It has been shown that repeated cleaning of first generation iPads had variable efficacy depending upon the cleaning solution used and with no demonstrable damage to the device.

The authors conclude that the risk associated to the e-menus usage in restaurants should be evaluated, in order to set appropriate cleaning protocols, reduce cross-contaminations and guarantee consumer safety.

Benedetta B, Ghidini S, Neviani E. Bugs a la carte: microbial contamination of electronic menus. Trends in Food Science & Technology. 2019 Jun 8.