Read This Before You Eat An Oreo Out of a Vending Machine

This might make you think twice the next time you reach for an Oreo out of a vending machine.

A new study has found that harmful bacteria can survive on sandwich crackers and cookies for months.  And months.

According to, researchers at the University of Georgia found that pathogens, like salmonella, can survive for at least six months in cookies and crackers. The recent study was prompted by an increased number of outbreaks of food-borne diseases linked to low-water-activity, or dry, foods.

We won't even get into Chipotle.

“There have been an increased number of outbreaks of diseases associated with consumption of contaminated dry foods. We wouldn’t expect salmonella to grow in foods that have a very dry environment,” says Larry Beuchat, a Distinguished Professor Emeritus and researcher in the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, who works with the Center for Food Safety on the UGA campus in Griffin. 

Beuchat and study co-author David Mann, a research professional in the center, found that not only can harmful bacteria survive in dry foods, like cookie and cracker sandwiches, but they can also live for long periods of time.
Focusing on cookie and cracker sandwiches, the researchers put salmonella into four types of fillings found in cookies or crackers and placed them into storage. The researchers used cheese and peanut butter fillings for the cracker sandwiches and chocolate and vanilla fillings for the cookie sandwiches.

These “are the kind that we find in grocery stores or vending machines,” Beuchat says.

After storing, the UGA scientists determined how long salmonella was able to survive in each filling. There was survival in all types Beuchat said, but salmonella survived longer in some types of the fillings than in others.

“The salmonella didn’t survive as well in the cracker sandwiches as it did in the cookie sandwiches,” Beuchat says. In some cases, the pathogen was able to survive for at least six months in the sandwiches.  Kind of disgustingly, disease-causing elements can survive for a very long time in dry foods.

So, next time you're hungry at work, reach for a drink of water instead.


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