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Int J Food Microbiol. 2010 Jan 31;137(1):61-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ijfoodmicro.2009.10.031. Epub 2009 Nov 6.

Beverages obtained from soda fountain machines in the U.S. contain microorganisms, including coliform bacteria.

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1
Department of Biology, Virginia Western Community College, Roanoke, VA 24015, USA.

Abstract

Ninety beverages of three types (sugar sodas, diet sodas and water) were obtained from 20 self-service and 10 personnel-dispensed soda fountains, analyzed for microbial contamination, and evaluated with respect to U.S. drinking water regulations. A follow-up study compared the concentration and composition of microbial populations in 27 beverages collected from 9 soda fountain machines in the morning as well as in the afternoon. Ice dispensed from these machines was also examined for microbial contamination. While none of the ice samples exceeded U.S. drinking water standards, coliform bacteria was detected in 48% of the beverages and 20% had a heterotrophic plate count greater than 500cfu/ml. Statistical analyses revealed no difference in levels of microbial contamination between beverage types or between those dispensed from self-service and personnel-dispensed soda fountains. 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.

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