Time to B. Cereus about hot chocolate

Pamela K. Nelms, Oren Larson, Debora Barnes-Josiah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Objective. To determine the cause of illnesses experienced by employees of a Minneapolis manufacturing plant after drinking hot chocolate bought from a vending machine and to explore the prevalence of similar vending machine- related illnesses. Methods. The authors inspected the vending machines at the manufacturing plant where employees reported illnesses and at other locations in the city where hot chocolate beverages were sold in machines. Tests were performed on dry mix, water, and beverage samples and on machine parts. Results. Laboratory analyses confirmed the presence of B. cereus in dispensed beverages at a concentration capable of causing illness (170,000 count/gm). In citywide testing of vending machines dispensing hot chocolate, 7 of the 39 licensed machines were found to be contaminated, with two contaminated machines having B. cereus levels capable of causing illness. Conclusions. Hot chocolate sold in vending machines may contain organisms capable of producing toxins that, under favorable conditions, can induce illness. Such illnesses are likely to be underreported. Even low concentrations of B. cereus may be dangerous for vulnerable populations such as the aged or immunosuppressed. Periodic testing of vending machines is thus warranted. The relationship between cleaning practices and B. cereus contamination is an issue for further study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)240-244
Number of pages5
JournalPublic Health Reports
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1997
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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