Is Fountain Soda Safe?
A new study published in the January issue of the International Journal of Microbiology is giving people cause to be concerned about what else they may be getting in their soda fountain drinks.
Coliform bacteria, the bacteria used to determine the quality of foods and beverages, were detected in 48% of the beverages analyzed in a 2009 study.
The study, conducted by researchers at Hollins University and Virginia Western Community College, found that “soda fountain machines may harbor persistent communities of potentially pathogenic microorganisms.”
In addition, the concern is that these microorganisms in the soda “may contribute to episodic gastric distress in the general population and could pose a more significant health risk to immunocompromised individuals.”
For this study ninety beverages of three types (sugar sodas, diet sodas and water) were obtained from 20 self-service and 10 personnel-dispensed soda fountains and evaluated according to with U.S. drinking water regulations.
After evaluating the soda samples they discovered:
- More than 11% of the beverages analyzed contained Escherichia coli
- Over 17% contained Chryseobacterium meningosepticum.
- Other opportunistic pathogenic microorganisms included: Klebsiella, Staphylococcus, Stenotrophomonas, Candida, and Serratia.
Most of the identified bacteria showed resistance to one or more of the 11 antibiotics tested. This finding may be a significant health risk to those who are immunocompromised.
Additionally, their analyses revealed no difference between the beverage type or between the type of soda fountain dispenser (self-serve or personnel-dispensed) in the levels of bacteria contamination.
Ice samples taken (looking for possible water contamination of all of the beverages), did not demonstrate bacteria at a level that exceeds the U.S. drinking water standards.
Coca Cola Responds
The news report by ABCNews.com includes a statement from the Coca-Cola Company. They are unaware of any illnesses related to its fountain-dispensed beverages, and that it “has been serving fountain beverages for more than 120 years.”
Since both types of fountain drinks, self-serve or personnel-dispensed, could potentially have bacterial contamination until some additional guidelines are put into place to keep the public safe or additional studies prove fountain drinks are safe in different parts of the country, ditch the soda dispensed in fountain drinks and drink bottled or canned (remembering to recycle your bottles and cans). In restaurants, you may want to stick with the water, coffee or tea.
White A. Godard R. Belling C. Kasza V. Beach R. Beverages obtained from soda fountain machines in the U.S. contain microorganisms, including coliform bacteria. International Journal of Food Microbiology. Volume 137, Issue 1, 31 January 2010, Pages 61-66.
Cox L. January 8, 2010. Soda Fountains Squirt Fecal Bacteria, Study Finds. ABC News.com.
Black R. January 8, 2010. Soda fountain machines harbor fecal bacteria, study finds. NY Daily News.
Image: Scott Snyder. Enjoy a Coke. Royalty Free Use.