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How Does Feces Get Into Soda Fountains?

How Does Feces Get Into Soda Fountains?

Daily Bread
January 8, 2010

Nearly half of all the fast-food soda fountains tested in a recent study dispensed coliform bacteria—that’s feces, folks—along with the pop.

The study, published in the International Journal of Food Microbiology, is being widely picked up in the blogosphere today. I kept clicking from one blog to the next, but none of them raised what to me is the obvious question: How does the fecal material make its way into the soda?

CBS News wondered, too, but they asked “Dr. Alanna Levine, a primary care physician,” who, as far as I can tell, had nothing to do with the study and has no particular expertise on soda fountains. For what it’s worth, she said: “Contamination can occur from employees or customers failing to wash their hands properly and touch the machine. Also, bacteria can enter your drink if the soda fountain machine and/or its water lines aren’t cleaned properly.”

Levine said, “You can get collections of bacteria in the water line, and that then runs through the whole machine and gets into the beverage.”

OK. I still wonder how that level of contamination can occur, given that soda fountains are basically closed-loop systems. How often do people touch the area around where the soda is dispensed? And are that many machines really being contaminated by dirty employees changing out the dispensers and hoses? If so, most of those employees are also handling food, right? How different is this level of contamination from the levels in other public places, like movie theaters or high-end restaurants?

Only the abstract of the study is available online, and it doesn’t address these questions. I am making inquiries.

However the nasty bacteria is getting there, it might be causing “episodic gastric distress in the general population and could pose a more significant health risk to immunocompromised individuals,” say the authors, who hail from a couple of colleges in Virginia.

And worse: it’s not just coliform, but other “opportunistic pathogenic microorganisms.” And most of what they found is at least somewhat resistant to antibiotics.

 

Thirsty? Bacteria linked to feces found on soda fountains

ABC News

If you’re chugging a soda from a fast food joint, you may want to put it down and read this.

A team of microbiologists from Hollins University found that 48% of the sodas they tested from fast food soda fountains had coliform bacteria, according to Tom Laskawy, a media and technology professional and blogger for grist.org.

Coliform is typically fecal in origin.

On top of that, the study found that most of the bacteria were resistant to antibiotics.

The team tested 90 beverages from 30 fountains, and published their findings in the International Journal of Food Microbiology.

Here is an excerpt from the abstract:

“…Coliform bacteria was detected in 48% of the beverages and 20% had a heterotrophic plate count greater than 500 cfu/ml. […] More than 11% of the beverages analyzed contained Escherichia coli [E. Coli] and over 17% contained Chryseobacterium meningosepticum. Other opportunistic pathogenic microorganisms isolated from the beverages included species of Klebsiella, Staphylococcus, Stenotrophomonas, Candida, and Serratia. Most of the identified bacteria showed resistance to one or more of the 11 antibiotics tested.”

Lawasky made sure to note that there has been only one recorded outbreak linked to soda fountains, and that was 10 years ago.

But, the bacteria could cause sickness that could go unreported and therefore never linked to soda fountains.

You can read the abstract or purchase the report here.

 

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