QT, BK Respond to Soda Fountain Bacteria Tests

Both back current standards for cleaning, testing

PHOENIX -- QuikTrip Corp. and Burger King have both responded after an ABC15 news investigation measured levels of bacteria on some of their soda fountain heads in the Pheonix area.

The ABC15 Investigators put 15 fast-food restaurants and convenience stores around the Valley to the test. After randomly selecting the locations, the team took sterile swabs from a certified lab and swabbed the soda-fountain nozzles. A lab tested the samples for total coliform and Escherichia coli, also called E. coli.

The lab did not find any E. coli, but four of the locations tested positive for total coliform, an indicator of fecal matter.

“The data you found suggests that at least in some of those places, they weren't cleaning the nozzles as they should,” Will Humble, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, told ABC15.

The tests showed total coliform on soda nozzles at a QuikTrip in Tempe, a Burger King in Phoenix, a Subway in Chandler and an ARCO am/pm in Glendale.

“They probably weren't pulling off the soda nozzles like they were supposed to,” said Humble. He also added that it could have been a customer touching the nozzle or a worker using a dirty rag.

ABC15 contacted all four locations that tested positive for total coliform.

QuikTrip spokesperson Mike Thornbrugh responded: “QuikTrip uses a double-filter water system for our products.  At a minimum on a weekly basis, we have our own Quality Assurance Technicians who clean the fountain heads, nozzles and diffusers. They also sanitize them. They clean the fountain head, the faceplates and covers. They clean the ice chutes and check the water temperature out of the nozzle. In addition to those items, one of their other duties is to flush the syrup lines with hot water, as well as many other tasks.”

A Burger King spokesperson responded: “Food safety and cleanliness are a top priority for Burger King restaurants. We have a comprehensive food safety program that uses multiple and overlapping controls to assure food safety and cleanliness in our restaurants every day.  The Burger Kind Operations Manual outlines procedures to wash, rinse, sanitize and air dry all components of the soda machines. We have verified that the [tested] Burger King in Phoenix is following all of the company’s procedures.”

After seeing the ABC15 test results, Humble had his department run tests of their own. They took 20 samples of soda and tested it for total coliform. They didn’t find any bacteria, but they did pass their information and protocols to the county inspectors.