Thursday, March 02, 2006

I'll take that coke with extra feces please!

Fast Food Ice Dirtier Than Toilet Water!
Out of the mouths of babes comes this news. Budding scientist, 12-year-old Jasmine Roberts from Benito Middle School in Tampa, Fla., has created a science fair project that has lots of grown-ups sitting up and taking notice.

Her conclusion: Ice at fast food restaurants is laced with bacteria. Lots of it.

Tampa Bay Online reports that Roberts examined the amount of bacteria in the ice served at fast food restaurants and the amount of bacteria in the toilet bowl water in those same restaurants. The toilet bowl water was cleaner 70 percent of the time. Even Roberts found the results to be startling. She told Tampa Bay Online reporter Michele Sager, "I thought there might be a little bacteria in the ice, but I never expected it to be this much. And I never thought the toilet water would be cleaner."

The study: Roberts collected ice samples from five fast food restaurants near the University of South Florida, including self-service dispensers inside the restaurants and in drinks served through the drive-through windows. Then she collected samples of water from the toilets in those same restaurants. All the samples were placed in sterile containers. She tested them in a lab at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center, where she volunteers with a University of South Florida professor.
The results: In four of the five restaurants, the ice that came from the self-service machines had more bacteria than the toilet water, reports Tampa Bay Online. Three of the five cups of ice from the drive-through windows had more bacteria than the toilet water. The bacteria in the ice included fecal coliform or E. coli, which can only come from the feces of warm-blooded animals.How did the bacteria get into the ice? Roberts suspects either the machine was not properly cleaned or an employee with soiled hands touched the ice.Geoff Luebkemann, the Florida state official whose agency is responsible for regulating hotels and restaurants, told Tampa Bay Online, "Ice machines are part of the health inspections. There are a lot of factors that have to be considered, like how accurately did she gather and test her specimens. Plus, comparing the ice to toilet water can be misleading because there are acceptable levels of bacteria for water." Not so says Galina Tuninskaya, vice president of Applied Consumer Services, a private lab that tests drinking water. "No levels of fecal coliform or E. coli are acceptable," she told Tampa Bay Online. "If you find that, you've got a problem." In case you wondered, Roberts won the science fair.

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