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Virginia Health Dept. Defends Inspections Amid Bacteria Study

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By Peter Granitz

The Virginia Health Department is defending its restaurant inspections after a study showed traces of E. coli in soda fountains.

Students at Hollins University tested 30 soda fountains in the Roanoke Valley. They discovered bacteria in nearly half of the machines. Researchers think bacteria cultures are living in plastic tubes users don't see inside the fountains.

Chris Gordon with the Virginia Health Department says the Commonwealth requires restaurant owners to clean the nozzles and tubes on soda fountains. Still, he says, some may not know that's the law.

"The key piece is that it's the responsibility of the operator to clean and sanitize these. Every individual restaurant operator is issued a permit and they are responsible," says Gordon. "It's their own restaurant, so they want to have customers keep coming back."

A spokesperson for the D.C. Department of Health says the district tests soda fountains, but did not make anyone available for an interview.

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