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Yuck! What’s On That Soda Can? CBS 11’s I-Team Finds Out

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Ginger Allen
Ginger is the Senior Investigative Reporter of the CB...
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FORT WORTH (CBS 11 NEWS) - Pop the top of your favorite soda can and you can expect to find carbonated water, sugar, even sodium.

But how about stenotrophomonas maltophilia, pseudomonas luteola, and enterobacter cloacae?

CBS 11 tested 20-cans from inside North Texas grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants, universities and vending machines.

“I really wasn’t expecting these to be as bad as they actually are considering the sources they came from,” said Microbiologist Karen Deiss from Armstrong Forensic Laboratories in Arlington.

Deiss showed us the 20-plates where bacteria was still growing from the samples we had returned to the lab. Yellow, white and cream colored dots covered most of the clear plastic surfaces. So much bacteria had grown the colonies were bleeding together. One plate was covered in a brownish-black hairy like fur about the size of quarter. Smaller brownish raised bubbles formed around it.

“The thought of that growing in your mouth after your drink is awful,” said Deiss.

Deiss explained that the plate was mold. The I-Team found it on a juice soda can inside the refrigerator at a corner market in Dallas. The plate also contained bacillus, a very common bacteria that Deiss explained is all around us.

Next, she lifted the lid off another plate and you could smell a potent odor coming from the small tray. This was yeast. We had swabbed this from the top of an energy drink we bought in a vending machine on a university campus in Dallas.

And science proved a waitress at a popular North Texas restaurant chain had delivered us staphylococcus on the top of a diet cola can.

We found pseudomonas aerugenosa on a pineapple soda from a vending machine outside a grocery store. While doctors and scientists tell us most healthy people should not worry about the bacteria, it can cause skin or ear infections. The germ is typically found in dirty hot tubs.

But the most concerning find came from the dust on the top of an energy drink from a gas station. Enterobacter cloacae…or coliform.

We took our results to Dr. Cedric Spak, Infectious Diseases Specialist at Baylor University Medical Center of Dallas. “It’s something from the rectum, would be a better way to describe it. It’s coliform, it’s something that lives in human and animal large intestines.”

Dr. Spak said it could mean the store clerk did not wash his hands after going to the bathroom. It be could be from a rat in the warehouse. He said there is no way of knowing, but the germ is all around us.

“You’ll find out it can cause infections in patients with a variety of serious medical conditions,” said Dr. Spak talking about several of the germs we discovered; However he stressed that most healthy people have nothing to worry about.

Studying our report, Dr. Spak said, “It’s not that bad and it’s not that surprising at all.”

If you are worried about exposure to the germs, Dr. Spak says running water is the best method to clean a can so before you drink, you might consider sticking the top of the can under a faucet.

In general, CBS 11 discovered the cans with the highest germ counts came from store and gas station shelves. Vending machines had the second highest counts. The can we pulled directly out of 12-packs had the lowest number of germs.

You can check out the full report from Armstrong Forensic Laboratory below:

PLEASE NOTE: The “Reporting Limits” column is a benchmark for the lab. The number represents the lowest count it can report. The number is not a guideline or standard.

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