Anyone who thinks soda tastes like crap may be on to something.
Those soda dispensers found at many fast food and other dining establishments can be a playground for fecal bacteria.
This latest germ paranoia was brought to light by ABC news, which reported on a study of 30 such soda machines in Virginia. Nearly half the machines spewed soda containing coliform bacteria, which often comes from fecal contamination.
Don’t fret. Anyone drinking directly from the can or that 2-liter bottle of Dr. Pepper that’s been in the fridge for two months is safe – unless, of course, you forgot to wipe the top clean of rat droppings.
But those who drink water from similar dispensers are not.
Human contact is to blame. Any time people get their grubby hands on things germs can thrive. The initial hypothesis was the bacteria came from the plastic dispenser nozzles, but restaurant managers said they cleaned those things daily.
So maybe it’s the little plastic tubes inside the machine.
Or maybe it’s little green men who come poop in the piping in the middle of the night.
Although 48 percent of the soda samples tested were contaminated with coliform bacteria, only 20 percent had levels that were higher than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency deems safe for our drinking water.
Coliform bacteria may also be rife in your kitchen sink, according to University of Arizona’s own Charles Gerba, a microbiologist, garbologist and “germ guru” who is as knowledgeable as he is enthusiastic about the stuff.
He was quoted in the ABC story saying he was not surprised by the soda machine findings. I also had the pleasure of interviewing Gerba last May for a column on germs.
“There is more fecal bacteria in the kitchen sink than there is in most toilets,” Gerba had said in the interview. “That’s why dogs drink out of the toilets.”
He also pointed out the most bacteria-laden areas in the office include the telephones, keyboards, desktops, the computer mouse and first-floor elevator buttons.
The germiest items in hospitals? Gerba said it’s the television remote control.
Now we can happily add soda pop dispensers to our list.
Every so often a new germ report comes out, instilling fear, loathing and the sudden urge to walk around wearing latex gloves.
But there really is no escape, as best summed up in an ABC report quote by Philip Tierno, director of Clinical Microbiology and Immunology at New York University Langone Medical Center.
“We’re basically bathed in feces as a society,” he said.
Do you fear germs or embrace them?
How often do you wash your hands – are you a Lady Macbeth?
Do you use anti-bacterial everything?
When’s the last time you took a shower?