Epidemiology and Infection

Short Report

Other gastroenteritis

Bacterial communities on food court tables and cleaning equipment in a shopping mall

S. DINGSDAGa1 and N. V. COLEMANa1 c1

a1 School of Molecular Bioscience, University of Sydney, Australia


The food court at a shopping mall is a potential transfer point for pathogenic microbes, but to date, this environment has not been the subject of detailed molecular microbiological study. We used a combination of culture-based and culture-independent approaches to investigate the types and numbers of bacteria present on food court tables, and on a food court cleaning cloth. Bacteria were found at 102–105 c.f.u./m2 on food court tables and 1010 c.f.u./m2 on the cleaning cloth. Tag-pyrosequencing of amplified 16S rRNA genes revealed that the dominant bacterial types on the cleaning cloth were genera known to include pathogenic species (Stenotrophomonas, Aeromonas), and that these genera were also evident at lower levels on table surfaces, suggesting possible cross-contamination. The evidence suggests a public health threat is posed by bacteria in the food court, and that this may be due to cross-contamination between cleaning equipment and table surfaces.

(Received June 29 2012)

(Revised August 14 2012)

(Accepted August 22 2012)

(Online publication September 19 2012)

Key words

  • Bacteriology;
  • public health microbiology


c1 Author for correspondence: Dr N. V. Coleman, School of Molecular Bioscience, Building G08, University of Sydney, 2006, Australia. (Email: nicholas.coleman@sydney.edu.au)