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Soda fountains could be squirting out fecal bacteria, study finds

January 8, 2010 |  5:51 pm

Soda fountain fecal bacteria contaminated virginiaAll right, two burgers with a side of fries coming up ... would you like a large fecally contaminated soda with that?

Like it or not, that's what you may be drinking, says a study published in the January print edition of the International Journal of Food Microbiology. The study looked at 90 beverages from 30 soda fountains in Virginia. A follow-up study took a look at the microbes they found in 27 drinks (including water). Researchers found that 48% of the drinks were harboring "coliform" bacteria -- which means they could contain fecal matter. 

"More than 11% of the beverages analyzed contained Escherichia coli and over 17% contained Chryseobacterium meningosepticum," according to the abstract. "Other opportunistic pathogenic microorganisms isolated from the beverages included species of Klebsiella, Staphylococcus, Stenotrophomonas, Candida, and Serratia."

Yech. That's quite a lineup. Even though the bacteria weren't strong enough to wreak havoc on most people's systems, the fact that they can and do live in soda fountains (and the fact that no one seems to know exactly how they got there, including the study authors) -- is a scary thought indeed.

This isn’t the first stomach-turning study to come out regarding the restaurant industry; as the FDA has pointed out, retail food is rife with potentially biohazardous situations. Also, carbonated beverages are not that good for you anyway. Then again, the type of restaurant where you'd typically be getting a drink from a soda fountain might not be especially healthful either.

-- Amina Khan

Photo credit: Los Angeles Times

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