A company that makes antimicrobial products, including highchairs and baby changing tables, says it found restaurant highchairs that were harboring more bacteria than public toilet seats.

London’s Daily Mail reported that Microban, which produces products with built-in microbial protection, took swab samples from highchairs in 30 restaurants and also from toilets.  Nicholas Moon, the company’s director of technical affairs, told the newspaper the average number of bacteria on the highchairs was 147 per square centimeter, compared with an average 8 per square centimeter on the toilet seats.

Moon also said the test results varied considerably, and although some of the highchairs were relatively clean, others had concentrations of bacteria as high as 1,200 bacteria per square centimeter.  Among the reported bacteria were E. coli and Staph aureus.

These were U.S. highchairs and U.S. toilets, and Moon had a rather disheartening word for British readers: “I would suspect that the highchairs in restaurants in this country would if anything be even dirtier as we tend to be less thorough about our hygiene than the Americans.”

The Daily Mail helpfully advised parents that they might consider sanitizing high chairs before putting their children in them.  Moon had just the answer for that, as he pointed out that high levels of bacteria were found on some high chairs that otherwise appeared to be clean. “…when staff cleared obvious spillages,” he said,  “they are not using antibacterial spray cleaners to ensure that the chair is thoroughly cleaned before the next child sits down.”

Microban manufactures disinfectants, along with its other products.

The Daily Mail noted that the cleanliness “or otherwise” of highchairs–including highchairs at home–has been questioned before, and cited a 2007 study by the United Kingdom’s Hygiene Council, which found coliforms on 60 percent of the high chair food trays it examined.

The Hygiene Council’s website highlights what it calls home “hot spots” and gives highchairs a hazard level of amber.  “Highchairs or places where children eat have worse levels of bacteria than toilet flushes.”