The Dirty Truth About Soda Fountains

By Hira Waheed

1 June 2023

Concerns about cleanliness and safety have arisen following a shocking 2010 study that revealed contamination in nearly half of the tested soda fountain beverages. This raises questions about the potential dangers of drinking soda from restaurants and whether it is possible to determine if these machines are actually clean. 

The Dirty Truth About Soda Fountains

Sanitized Food Machines

 According to Katie Heil, food and beverage content manager for Certus, these machines should be sanitized as recommended by the manufacturer or as necessary to prevent the buildup of grime or mold. Daily cleaning and sanitization of the nozzles and weekly cleaning of syrup connectors are essential. If restaurants adhere to these regulations, soda fountains should be sanitary and safe to drink from.

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Potential Health Dangers With Soda Machines

  1. E. coli: In the 2010 study, approximately 50 percent of the tested soda fountain beverages from Virginia restaurants tested positive for coliform bacteria, indicating possible fecal contamination The study highlighted the potential for pathogenic strains of bacteria to thrive in soda fountain machines.
  2. Mold: Mold can thrive in uncleaned nozzles and lines, and the presence of slimy black and green substances has been discovered during surprise inspections at restaurants. The high-moisture environment combined with sugar residues provides an ideal breeding ground for mold growth, posing health risks to consumers.
  3. Bugs: Soda fountains, with their sugary lines and nozzles, can attract bugs. Regular cleaning prevents residue buildup, which would otherwise entice insects. Instances of infestations have been reported, such as one New York City restaurant server's account of encountering cockroaches when opening the top of a soda fountain.

 While many soda fountains maintain proper cleanliness and hygiene, others may fall short of necessary sanitation standards. Factors such as understaffed restaurants and competing cleaning priorities can contribute to potential issues. To ensure peace of mind, consider choosing bottled beverages when visiting restaurants. Ultimately, prioritizing personal health and safety is paramount when making decisions about consuming soda from soda fountains.

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