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Adlai E. Stevenson Jr.

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January 9, 2010

I'd Like A Large Diet Cola With Those Fries, Extra Ice, Hold The Poop

Have you seen the latest scare reports on the Google News front page?

CBS Study: 48 Percent Of Fountain Sodas Contaminated

ABC Soda Fountains Squirt Fecal Bacteria, Study Finds

Food Consumer Soda fountains dispersing gastric distress

Clearly, the latest scoop on poop is fast approaching viral status. If you bother to click on the actual study  you will discover quite a lot of useful information that will help put this all in perspective. And, a little further digging indicates the results of the study have been blown totally out of proportion in the media's never ending quest to scare the bejeezus out of all of us.

The study consisted of sampling and testing 90 cups of soda and water from 30 soda fountain dispensers in fast food restaurants in the Roanoke Valley area. The study authors are three biology teachers and two undergraduate students also from the Roanoke Valley area. Notably there is no epidemiologist or biostatistician listed among the authors. I know this is notable because my brother happens to be an epidemiologist and biostatistician and when statistical significance is important to researchers, you get someone like my brother on board ASAP to make sure, among other things, that you have defined a sample large enough to yield at least potentially statistically significant results.

There are 107 fast food restaurants listed in the Roanoke Yellow Pages at USACityLink.com including 8 McDonalds and 5 Burger Kings.  In the United States, there are presently 12804 McDonalds and over 7900 Burger Kings.  Even if all 13 McDonalds and Burger Kings in Roanoke Valley were included among the 30 fountains tested and even if every one them tested positive, it is ridiculous, reckless and irresponsible to publish scare headlines claiming 48% of the soda fountains in the U.S. are contaminated. Its not even 48% of the soda fountains in Roanoke.

The Roanoke teachers and students who tested less than 3 dozen soda fountains are probably a nice group of women with the best of intentions. My beef is with the mass media that misrepresented their little study to generate and fuel fear all to make more advertising dollars.

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