Latest updated September 29, 2023 by

Beware the Soda Fountain: Researchers Find Bacteria Contamination

Researchers from Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, CA collected 72 samples from various locations like soda fountains in the Eastern Coachella Valley, and found harmful microbial contamination in 41% of the water samples gathered. The samples were taken from…

Researchers from Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, CA collected 72 samples from various locations like soda fountains in the Eastern Coachella Valley, and found harmful microbial contamination in 41% of the water samples gathered. The samples were taken from fast food soda fountains, vending machines, and tap water.

The results from the study were published in an article in the August issue of Water Supply and their findings included identifying bacteria in the samples that exceeded the EPA standard.

Thomas Hile PhD, a researcher and lead author of the study said that: “To the best of our knowledge, our study is the first to assess the water quality from soda fountains, water vending machines, swabs, and tap water, especially in the Eastern Coachella Valley.”

Researchers found the following contamination in the samples:

  • Biofilms (communities of microorganisms)
  • Genetic material (from bacteria found in Salmonella, E. coli, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa,)
  • total cloriforms (bacteria found in soil that has been in contact with fecal matter or surface water)

“To the best of our knowledge, our study is the first to assess the water quality from soda fountains, water vending machines, swabs, and tap water, especially in the Eastern Coachella Valley,” said Thomas Hile, PhD, MSc, an LLU affiliated researcher and lead author of the study.

Irregular maintenance and cleaning of the fountains, including the water filtration systems cause biofilms to form over time in the plastic piping systems,

Researchers say that regulations are needed in this arena to promote more frequent cleanings, and installing antimicrobial tubes could cut down on growth.

Also of note, is the area surveyed in California serves a Latino community challenged by irregular access to clean drinking water which may have a hand in the high contamination numbers.

“The study collected water samples from an underserved area, where there generally aren’t routine checks of water quality and lack of maintenance for soda fountains or water vending machines,” says study author Dr. Ryan Sinclair, an associate professor

McDonald’s recently announced that they would be doing away with their popular self-serve soda fountains by 2032. Many on social media have been reporting that they’ve already removed the self-serve option in their area so it’s looking like that time table is set as the date to have every location up to snuff.

A troubling thought is that with employee’s having to serve customer’s their drinks and refills…there might be even less time allotted to the fountains maintenance than there was previously…

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