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Food & Beverage

Ito En uses tea leaves to brew up antimicrobial vending machines

Company hopes to snag demand from germophobic beverage sippers

The buttons and bill insertion slot are protected by the natural antimicrobial substance. (Photo courtesy of Ito En)

TOKYO -- Ito En is protecting frequently touched areas of its tea vending machines with an ingredient of the very product they sell, aiming to offer germ-fearing customers a safer alternative to buying beverages face to face.

A sheet embedded with used tea leaves will be attached to the buttons, the bill insertion slot and the product retrieval opening. Catechins, found in tea leaves, are said to have an antibacterial effect. The Tokyo company behind the Oi Ocha tea brand plans to add the feature to about 30,000 of its 160,000 vending machines in Japan this fiscal year.

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