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Study: Fountains can be Filthy

ROANOKE, Va. -- A new study by a group of microbiologists at Virginia's Hollins University found that 48 percent of fountain beverage machines tested contained coliform bacteria, according to

The International Journal of Food Microbiology study found that most of the bacteria -- which can originate in fecal matter -- were resistant to antibiotics.

"Coliform bacteria was detected in 48 percent of the beverages," the team's abstract states, which was cited by the Web site. "More than 11 percent of the beverages analyzed contained Escherichia coli [E. coli]."

Several other types of bacteria also were discovered, including Staphylococcus, and most showed resistance to one or more of the 11 antibiotics used in the study, lead researcher and Hollins biology professor Renee Godard said in the report.

The scientists tested 90 drinks in 30 soda fountains from fast food and convenience stores within a 20-mile radius of the university's campus in Roanoke, and were not identified by the study, according to the report.

Godard noted the root of the problem is the failure to properly clean the soda machines, where bacteria fester in the plastic tubing. Flushing the tubes out with sanitizer is the solution, according to the report.

While there is only one epidemic of illness linked to a soda fountain on record, about a decade ago, it doesn't account for food poisoning unknowingly caused by tainted beverage machines, the Web site stated.

"There isn't any major food-borne outbreak. It's not like we've had some massive mortality from these," said Godard. "Soda fountain beverages could be linked to gastrointestinal upset that could go unreported."
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