This study was undertaken to evaluate the microbial quality of the soft drinks served by fast food restaurants and gas station convenience stores in Griffin, GA, and surrounding areas. The soft drinks were collected from the dispensing machines in 8 fast food restaurants or gas station convenience stores in 2005 (n = 25) and in 10 fast food restaurants or gas station convenience stores in 2006 (n = 43) and 2007 (n = 43). One hundred milliliters of each soft drink was filtered through a hydrophobic grid membrane filter. The remaining portion of the soft drink was kept at room temperature for 4 h before sampling in order to mimic the possible holding time between purchase and consumption. The membrane filters were sampled for total aerobic bacteria, Enterobacteriaceae, lactic acid bacteria, and yeasts and molds. The microbial counts in the 2006 samples were numerically higher than the counts in the 2007 samples except for the average lactic acid bacteria counts, and were either significantly or numerically higher than the counts in the 2005 samples. Soft drinks sampled after the 4-h holding period had relatively higher counts than those sampled initially, with a few exceptions. Some soft drinks had over 4 log CFU/100 ml of total aerobic bacteria, Enterobacteriaceae, lactic acid bacteria, and yeast and mold cells. The study revealed the microbial quality of soft drinks served by dispensing machines in Griffin, GA, and surrounding areas, emphasizing the importance of effective sanitizing practice in retail settings.

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