January 6, 2010

It's not Just the Meat

Not to overdo the food safety theme, but I thought it amusing gross to discover that fast food restaurants have contamination issues in more than just their meat. A team of microbiologists from Virginia's Hollins University just published a paper in the International Journal of Food Microbiology that indicates soda fountains harbor coliform bacteria (usually but not always fecal in origin), E coli and other harmful bugs at levels far beyond EPA safe drinking water limits. From the abstract:
More than 11% of the beverages analyzed contained Escherichia 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. These findings suggest that soda fountain machines may harbor persistent communities of potentially pathogenic microorganisms which may contribute to episodic gastric distress in the general population and could pose a more significant health risk to immunocompromised individuals. These findings have important public health implications and signal the need for regulations enforcing hygienic practices associated with these beverage dispensers.
And antibiotic resistant to boot! The good news, sort of, according to the researchers is that only one outbreak from about ten years ago was linked to a soda fountain. But there's an awful lot of unreported "gastric distress" out there. I guess it's not just the HFCS that soda drinkers have to worry about.

h/t the Smithsonian's Food & Think blog

Photo by Zach Klein used under a CC license

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Blogger Christine said...

I got sick after drinking soda at a fast food place, (will leave the name out)and thought it was just me until i went back yet two more times and got sick yet again. I ordered different food but the same soda. I now take my own soda along and go to the drive through when my family bugs me enough to eat there and i don't get sick. Thanks to my own drink! That is a shame that we have to now have to worry about what we are drinking as well as what we are eatting!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Was this a nationwide study? Or a local or statewide study? They tested 90 beverages at 30 soda fountains -- so what? Maybe Virginia has a problem -- what about the other 49 states? Something stinks here and I don't think it's the soda pop.

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