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.
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