Jun. 8th, 2017

walkitout: (Default)

I generally trust Snopes. But everyone can screw up (I used to go look up entries in the Encyclopedia Britannica decades ago after reading a recent scholarly monograph on a topic, and count how many assertions in the entry were baldly untrue. It was like shooting fish in a barrel, because if I was reading a monograph, it was because I thought the conventional wisdom was dead wrong, and of course a current monograph is the best way to find out short of doing the research oneself).

In this case, Snopes is correct that Alcaligenes viscolactis does exist in some water systems, and can therefore grow in sun tea. There error lies in the assertion that Alcaligenes viscolactis is a dangerous bacteria. It is not. Cultures of it are sold for use in middle school and high school biology lab _because it is non pathogenic_.

So if you make sun tea and it turns all ropy and syrupy on you, you grew yourself a nice batch of Alcaligenes viscolactis, and it might be gross enough that you don't want to drink it. But it almost certainly won't make you sick. I can't even find instances of A. viscolactis making _immunocompromised_ people sick.

Could sun tea harbor other pathogens? Presumably. Pathogens can turn up anywhere. I mean, if you are making sun tea on a porch, a bird could come by and dump something in the sun tea and you could die of salmonella. But I don't think you need to worry about the non-boiling aspect of sun tea. You should instead focus on making sure that wild critters don't have access to the pitcher, whether you made your tea in the sun or with boiling water from the stove.

ETA: In Snopes defense, they depict sun tea being made in closed containers. So, good practice! You should do it that way, too.


The snopes comment page includes this comment. If anyone can track the incident down, I'd love to see details. The link is broken, but I'll check wayback next.


"From Colorado State U website:

"Using the natural rays of the sun to make tea is fun and popular in the summer. However, using such a method to make tea is highly discouraged. Sun tea is the perfect medium for bacteria to grow. If the sun tea has a thick or syrupy appearance, it may be due to the presence of a ropy bacteria called Alcaligenes viscolactis. Ropy bacteria are commonly found in soil and water.

Several years ago in Ohio and Washington, several people became ill after drinking tainted ice tea. In Washington it was determined that the tea had been made with tap water only heated to 130 degrees Fahrenheit and left to sit at room temperature for more than 24 hours. As a result, the Centers for Disease Control and the National Tea Association recommend the following when making tea.

* Brew tea bags at 195 degrees F for three to five minutes.
* Brew only enough tea that can be consumed within a few hours... SNIP ...

Adapted from "Bacteria-filled iced tea can cause illness," Fort Collins Coloradoan, June 12, 1996, Pat Kendall.


Here is the wayback machine version of the colorado state extension newsletter. It adds nothing useful.


The Straight Dope is _also_ a source I trust.

Wow, this is amazing!


I think I'm done for now, altho I may dig around in CDC disease outbreaks to see if I can find the original of the Ohio/Washington sickness claimed by Pat Kendall. The Fort Collins Coloradoan has archives, but not for 1996 (yet). But judging by what is showing up in derivatives, I doubt there is further detail in the original article.

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