Soda Fountains May Harbor Bacteria

Soda fountains might harbor <"">food borne bacteria. According to CNN, about half of some 90 drinks from soda fountain machines in one Virginia area tested positive for coliform bacteria. Coliform is a pointer to potential fecal contamination, added CNN. The study was published in this month’s issue of the International Journal of Food Microbiology.

Coliforms, which apply to a broad array of bacteria found in the environment—for instance mammal feces, soil, vegetation, and water—can be used to determine if other fecal pathogens, such as E. coli, are in the test environment. Such pathogens indicate the potential presence of dangerous, sometimes deadly and disease-causing contaminants. In this case, the researchers detected dangerous antibiotic-resistant microbes and E.coli in the samples taken from the soda fountains.

“Certainly we come in contact with bacteria all the time,” Renee Godard, lead author of the study and professor of biology and environmental studies at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia. “It’s simply that some bacteria may potentially cause some disease or gastrointestinal distress. One thing we hesitate with is that people get afraid of bacteria. Many of them are benign or helpful, but certainly, I don’t want E.coli in my beverage,” quoted CNN.

CNN explained that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) drinking-water regulations mandate samples test negative for E.coli. Because drinking water should be free of such organisms—such as viruses, bacteria, and protozoa—and because pathogens carried in water can result in hepatitis, giardiasis, and dysentery, it is critical that drinking water is checked and coliform sampling criteria be used. Coliform is an easier, effective, and financially inexpensive method of conducting such testing.

The test revealed that many of the beverages tested below current standards, said CNN. “The large number of beverages and soda fountain machines containing E. coli is still of considerable concern… and suggests that more pathogenic strains of bacteria could persist and thrive in soda fountain machines if introduced,” the study authors wrote, quoted CNN.

We frequently report on E. coli and have discussed that this is a bacterium—a fecal coliform—found in the intestines of mammals: Warm-blooded animals, including humans. E. coli present in a water system can point to recent sewage or animal waste contamination. Some E. coli strains are necessary for digestion and harmless, while some are harmful, deadly, toxin producing, and part of a group of E. coli called Verocytotoxigenic E. coli, or VTECs. E. coli may cause fatal blood poisoning, cystitis, deadly septicemia, and death. In the US, E. coli is the leading cause of food-borne illness, sickening about 73,000 and killing 61.

We have also long been reporting on distressing reports of cases of drug resistant E. coli being recounted world-wide that are similar in path to a mutated staph called MRSA, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus that, when not treated early, is resistant to all but the one antibiotic of last resort.

The team looked at sugared and diet sodas and water taken from 30 fast food eateries in an area near Roanoke, Virginia, taking samples from self-service and employee-managed machines, said CNN. Testing revealed 48 percent of beverages contained coliform bacteria; 11 percent contained E. coli; and 17 percent contained Chryseobacterium meningosepticum, another pathogen.

Of note, the research literature, said CNN, linked an outbreak of gastroenteritis in 1998 at a U.S. Army base to soda fountains. Nearly 100 soldiers were hospitalized in that outbreak.

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