Almost Half of All Fast Food Soda
Contains Bacteria that Grew in Feces
Seems like the reasons to not eat at fast food restaurants just
keep on piling up. We've heard all about the unseemly practices
that go into obtaining their meats and innumerable other horrors.
But now, let's look at the quality of the soda fountains--another
staple of the fast food experience. A recent study has revealed
that a full 48% of soda fountains at fast food restaurants contain
coliform bacteria--a bacteria that commonly grows in feces. Oh,
and 11% contained E. Coli, too.
The study was done by a team of microbiologists at Hollins University,
and the findings were just published in the International Journal
of Food Microbiology.
Fecal Bacteria and Co. in Fast Food Soda Fountains
From the abstract
of the scientists' report:
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
That's right--not only do soda fountains contain bacteria that
originated in poop and potentially dangerous amounts of E. Coli,
but they've become resistant to antibiotics as well. Fantastic.
Journalist Tom Lawskawy, who broke news of the study, points
out, however, that the researchers say there's only been one certified
outbreak over in the last ten years. And to be clear, coliform
bacteria does not only grow in feces, though it commonly does--and
the majority of coliform bacteria are not dangerous. But Lawskawy
also notes that there's an "awful lot of 'gastric distress'
that goes unreported."
Which is undeniably true--how many times can you remember having
a meal at a fast food restaurant and inexplicably not feeling
so hot afterward? Perhaps our friend the coliform bacteria--you
know, the one that grows in feces and that you have something
like a 50% chance of ingesting if you drink from fast food soda
fountains--has played a part.
Can Fecal Bacteria in Soda Really Make You Sick?
Now, while the whole concept does indeed seem disgusting, it's
useful to remember that there is a small amount of coliform bacteria
in much of the stuff we drink--it's legal, and safe, in certain
percentages in US drinking water. And there's only one strain
of E. Coli (O157:H7) that's
dangerous, which is why outbreaks attributed to soda fountains
are so extremely rare--and why nobody really needs to fear for
their lives when going for a refill of Dr. Pepper.
That said, there are still people getting needlessly sick to
their stomachs by the poor cleaning practices of fast food joints.
As the scientists conclude in their abstract:
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
January 12, 2010