fountain drinkIf you're drinking a fountain beverage from a restaurant right now, you probably want to skip to the next blog entry. You've been warned. A team of microbiologists from Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia have conducted one of those studies that we never -- ever -- like to hear about. They discovered coliform and fecal coliform bacteria and other "opportunistic pathogenic microorganisms" present in more than half of all restaurant soda machines.

Fecal coliform bacteria is exactly what it sounds like.

In other words, if the beef doesn't make you sick from the bacteria and the ammonia used to clean the processed beef filler, the soda might come back to haunt you with "episodic gastric distress."

According to the study, pathogens ranging from E. coli to Chryseobacterium meningosepticum, which is a bacteria that causes infections such as meningitis and pneumonia, were discovered on the commonly used soda dispensers. They also discovered "Klebsiella, Staphylococcus, Stenotrophomonas, Candida, and Serratia."

Oh, and it gets worse. The strains of bacteria were resistant to 11 different antibiotics.

The scientists discovered the bacteria not necessarily on the controls for the soda machines, but in the soda itself. So somehow the bacteria was making its way into the liquid.

But here's the good news. The scientists found that there was only one serious outbreak in the last 10 years caused by the soda fountain bacteria. However, that doesn't preclude the countless episodes of "gastric distress."

It's clear that a fast food restaurant is more or less a minefield of disgusting pathogens and questionable foodstuffs. And even though the food itself is cheap, we can only guess at the externalized cost -- the amount of money squandered in health care expenses and lost wages as the result of the eating such "inexpensive and convenient" food-like products.

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