Though not directly related to water testing or water quality, we felt this article deserved a little airtime on our site.

According to a recent study conducted in the Roanoke Valley, VA area we may get a lot more than we bargain for when we fill up our cups at the soda fountain.

Those soda fountain machines found in restaurants and fast food joints may be squirting out liquids contaminated with fecal bacteria, a small study found.

Whether it was self-serve or behind the counter, nearly half of all sodas dispensed from a sample of 30 machines in the Roanoke Valley in Virginia had coliform bacteria — a group of bacteria banned in drinking water by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) because it indicates the possibility of fecal contamination.

“We can’t have that in our drinking supply. But they’re coming out of these soda fountain machines,” she said.

The soda machines had turned into a bacteria metropolis with Escherichia coli (E. coli), species of Klebsiella, Staphylococcus, Stenotrophomonas, Candida, and Serratia. Most of the bacteria were resistant to the 11 antibiotics Godard tested on her samples.

“About 70 percent of the beverages had bacteria and 48 percent of them had coliform bacteria,” said Godard.

However, only 20 percent of the sodas sampled had coliform bacteria that exceeded the EPA limit for drinking water.

Since the tap water and ice from the machines didn’t test positive for bacteria, Godard and her team ruled out the possibility of a valley-wide contamination of the water supply.

Various brands of soft drinks and various types — sugared, diet or even water — were contaminated, leading Godard to think that it wasn’t the soda, but the machine that was growing bacteria.

From all her testing, Godard still isn’t sure where the bacteria came from. Few people observed in the restaurants touched the nozzles of the soda fountain machines and restaurant managers Godard interviewed reported cleaning the nozzles daily.

But only one restaurant manager reported rinsing the plastic tubing within the machines on a regular basis. ( source )

Needless to say the shock value of this made us gag and immediately swear off fountain drinks for life. Too bad we won’t have the ability to keep that promise. Whether we like it or not, dispensing systems like the ones mentioned in the article exist in many areas of our life: beer taps at the bar, water dispensers on the refrigerator, water coolers at the office, etc.

The good news in all of this deals with the fact that we can do something about bacteria growing in all of those machines: WE CAN CLEAN IT OUT.

Sounds stupid, but a little cleaning, or in this case flushing, goes a long way when it comes to keeping our sodas, beers and water bacteria-free. Check the owners manual for instructions on how to properly flush the lines in your machines today!

Filter Water: Ultraviolet Water Sterilizer
Ultraviolet Water Sterilizer
for Water Coolers

Filter Water: Paper Cup Holder
Paper Cup Holder
for Water Coolers

Filter Water: 100 Paper Cups
100 Paper Cups
for Water Coolers

Concerned that your water cooler may have harmful bacteria in it? Try the WaterSafe Water Cooler Bacteria test kit!