Secret Swabs - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Secret Swabs

Working out is one of Eva Burkett's routines.

Watching Action News Five is another.

She was disgusted when she saw what our "secret swabs" found at Mid-South restaurants.

Burkett says, "Made me not even want to eat out anymore."

She wondered what we might find at Mid-South fitness centers.

Burkett continues, "Well, you come here to get fit and be physically fit and not to be here and get sick."

Action News Five used sterile sponges and a hidden camera to "get the dirt" on four fitness centers from downtown to Cordova.

The process starts by carefully taking the sponge out of its package using rubber gloves and then swiping them across surfaces.

In this case, everything from exercise machine handles to exercise balls to cardio equipment was swabbed.

Microbiologist Connie Cook takes it from there by collecting the samples and putting them to the test using these petri dishes.

This particular dish turned up the most dirt.

Cook says, "For an environmental sample, that's pretty significant."

That sample came from inside the Cordova Athletic Club.

It includes levels of Staph bacteria AND E Coli.

Cook says, "E Coli comes from human waste."

But that doesn't take the cake.

The level of Coliforms does!

Those types of bacteria come from waste as well.

And more than 13 thousand colonies of fecal matter were detected inside this fitness center.

Cook says she's never seen those levels outside of actual waste water.

Cook continues, "For you to get sick from that--you would have to touch it, get it in your mouth, or have an open cut."

But she adds.."It's psychologically nasty!"

Action News Five went to Cordova Athletic Club to inquire about it's cleanliness.

At first, owner Steve Anderson did not want to talk.

Once Action News Five explained our "secret swab process," he was a little more willing.

"I have no explanation for these numbers," says Anderson.

Anderson told us how clean he tries to keep things.

Anderson continues, "They could have sponged the machines right after somebody used it."

He says his staff continuously cleans up.

Plus, the club provides disinfectant and towels for members to do it themselves.

Anderson says, "I think you'll find this club clean or cleaner than any club in Memphis."

Cook suggests you take matters into your own hands.

Cook says, "Clean when you get started and behind yourself to be respectful to someone else."

Eva Burkett is now a believer.

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