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Investigator: High bacteria levels found in ice cream

2:27 PM, Jul 19, 2011   |    comments
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NORTHEAST OHIO -- A Channel 3 News investigation got the scoop on soft-serve ice cream sold locally. The news is both good and bad.

High levels of coliform bacteria were found at two ice cream stands.

"Coliform bacteria is a background bacteria that tells you that an ice cream machine needs to be cleaned and sanitized," explained Dave Coval, with the county health department.

He said excessive levels can cause diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and headaches.

With the help of Accra Laboratories in Twinsburg, Channel 3 News randomly selected 15 locations that serve soft-serve ice cream, shakes and custard.

Samples of ice cream were numbered, sealed, and placed on ice immediately after they were collected.

That same day, the samples were taken to the lab to be tested for the presence of coliform bacteria. The only standard that Channel 3 News could find for coliform bacteria is set by the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

A spokesman said the standard is 10 coliform bacteria per milliliter. And that applies only to the pre-made mix that ice cream shops purchase from suppliers.

The good news is that 13 of the 15 samples showed no coliform bacteria. But the remaining two samples were high.

"I wouldn't eat ice cream with levels that high," said microbiologist Roger Pryor.

Pryor said he found 3,500 coliform count in a sample of chocolate-vanilla twist collected from Dairy Land on W. 117th Street in Cleveland.

"I'm really sorry. I don't know how that happened," manager Tammy Stewart said. "We clean the machines three times a week, but we'll clean them 6 times a week now."

Pryor says test results also show a 5,300 coliform count at Mister T's in Oakwood Village.

"This is way too excessive and should be looked into," Pryor said.

Owner Stemanti Regas said their machines are cleaned and santiized daily.

"We have loyal customers who come back all the time and none of them have ever complained about getting sick from eating our ice cream, " he said. 

Stemanti and his parents also said family members eat ice cream at their store every day and never get ill. Regas said he planned to report the test results to his supplier.

The owners noted that they have a good record with the county health department, having passed its last five inspections.    

The health department says it doesn't routinely test for coliform bacteria in soft-serve ice cream, arguing it's more important that retail establishments have good cleaning and sanitizing policies and that employees follow those policies.

The following is a list of establishments which did not have any coliform bacteria in their products on the day they were tested:

  • Burger King     7500 Detroit       Cleveland
  • Dairy Queen    16803 Detroit     Lakewood
  • Wendy's          5815 St. Clair     Cleveland
  • Dairy King       6484 Brecksville  Independence
  • McDonald's      25680 Miles        Bedford Hts
  • Dairy Queen    5713 Mayfield     Lyndhurst
  • Wendy's          6530 Pearl          Parma Hts
  • Arby's             7687 Broadview  Seven Hills
  • Rosati's           10735 Ravenna   Twinsburg
  • East Coast       18900 Lorain       Fairview Park
  • Sandy's           17635 Lakeshore Cleveland
  • Mickey's          778 E. 185           Cleveland
  • United Dairy    4234 Mayfield      South Euclid    

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