By Michael Allen
The Legislature gave final approval August 24 to Assembly Bill 1513, a bill I am carrying to establish standards for cleaning and safety at restaurant playgrounds.
I introduced AB 1513 in January, after reading about some of the horrible experiences that families have had at restaurant playgrounds. If Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. signs the bill – and I believe that he will – California would become one of the first states to enact rules for restaurant playground cleanliness and safety (lawmakers in several other states are pursuing similar efforts).
A pair of women from Arizona – one a child development specialist and the other a microbiologist – have conducted extensive research across multiple states, and what they have found has been at best unnerving, and in some cases, horrifying: cracked or broken play or climbing structures, spoiled food, soiled diapers, and, in one instance, a used condom.
This is not just gross or disgusting: conditions like those mentioned above can be downright hazardous to a child’s health. And indeed, while record keeping by health officials has been less than perfect, we do know that thousands of children each year have been injured at restaurant playgrounds, some quite seriously.
And research by the women from Arizona has documented the presence of a number of potentially harmful pathogens. In California alone, they have found Staphylococcus, fecal coliform, Streptococcus at restaurant playgrounds.
Restaurants operating in our state are already required to provide their customers with restrooms that are clean and in proper working order, and I strongly believe they should be held to similar standards for the playground areas they make available for public use. That’s why I introduced AB 1513.
Were my bill to become law, restaurants would be required to do the following with regard to their playground areas:
- Develop a plan for ensuring that playground areas are kept clean and free of conditions that may be hazardous to children, including cracked or broken playground structures;
- Display, or provide upon request, the retail food facility's policy on playground maintenance and dates on which the playground was last inspected and cleaned;
- Post a sign prohibiting customers from taking food into or on, or eating food on, playground structures, including climbing structures and slides, except that food may be taken to and consumed within rest or observation areas within or adjoining a playground area.
These are common-sense practices that many, if not most, restaurant chains already engage in. My bill simply clarifies that these best practices should be utilized by all restaurants, and offers local health inspectors some guidance as to what to look for at restaurant playgrounds.
Perhaps most importantly, AB 1513 will provide California parents with the peace of mind in knowing that these playground areas are clean and safe for their children to use.