Cruddy cans: Soda can germs

10:40 AM, Feb 15, 2013   |    comments
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MIAMI, Florida (CBS4) - Pop the top of your favorite soda and you can expect to find carbonated water, sugar, even a little sodium. But look closer. Could you also find some Bacillus? How about a splash of Staphylococcus?

Our sister station CBS4 WFOR in Miami discovered nearly a dozen different germs lurking on the tops of 20-soda cans during a random test. We checked out groceries, gas stations, restaurants, universities and vending machines. One soda can in a Doral gas station had dark soot on the top.

"I really wasn't expecting these to be as bad as they actually are, considering the sources they came from," said Karen Deiss, a Microbiologist. She showed us the black furry mold that was hiding on this can from a store.

"Oh wow," was Deiss' reaction. "The thought of that growing in your mouth after your drink, is awful.

A potent odor came from the yeast that was on the energy drink we bought from a vending machine.

The big question for consumers is how are the cans stored before we buy them. The ones we bought have a plastic cover on top which does a pretty good job of protecting them from any dirt or germs."

But it's what happens when the plastic is torn off, or there's nothing to protect the cams, that causes problems.

A waitress delivered us the staph during lunch. We found Pseudomonas Aerugenosa apparently growing on a can inside this vending machine. That's a bacteria that can cause skin or ear infections... typically associated with dirty Hot Tubs. Take a look at the dust on the top of this energy drink from a gas station. That's enterobacter.... a coliform bacteria.

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Cedric Spak explained that if that really meant something from the can was living there. "It's something from the rectum, would be a better way to describe it. It's coliform, it something that lives in human and animal large intestines.

Dr. Spake said it could mean the store clerk did not wash his hands after going to the bathroom, or it could be from a rat in the warehouse. "You'll find out it can cause infections in patients with a variety of serious medical conditions.

"I started getting throbbing cramps on the left side of my lower abdominal. I didn't think much of it, but the pain was there." Oscar Izquierdo of Westchester is proof that it's not just dirty soda cans to be on the lookout for. He said he got sick drinking from a contaminated bottle of water he bought three weeks ago. He didn't notice the entire package had bottles with grey-patchy "blobs" floating inside... a sign of contamination.

"I completely freaked out, there's a blob grey-ish tint to it floating around in the water. I started thinking oh my God could this possibly be the reason why I am getting the cramps and two of my three kids are getting sick?" asked Izquierdo.

Dr. Spak is quick to point out wherever they come from, these germs are all around us. He said the bottom line is that they should not cause concerns in most healthy people.

"It's not that bad and it's not that surprising at all," said Dr. Spak.

Fresh tap water or an alcohol based sanitizer can be an effective wipe-down to get rid of any dirt or germs on cans. Bottled water doesn't last forever. If you see anything floating inside... don't drink it! 

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