Ice from three of the UK’s largest coffee chains has been found to contain faecal bacteria.
Samples of iced drinks from Costa Coffee, Starbucks and Caffe Nero contained varying levels of bacteria according to an investigation carried out by the BBC’s Watchdog programme.
Seven out of 10 samples of iced water from Costa and three out of 10 samples from the other two chains tested positive for faecal coliform bacteria. Expert in foodborne pathogens at Quadram Institute of Bioscience Rob Kingsley said the findings were extremely concerning.
“It is an indicator that there has been a breakdown either in hygiene or the source of water used for this ice,” he said. “I would certainly think twice about eating something that may contain faecal contamination at a level where it is detectable.”
The study was carried out on behalf of the BBC by Leeds Beckett University. Microbiologist and senior lecturer Margarita Gomez Escalada said the ice had probably been contaminated by unclean hands. However she added that ice machines and ice buckets might have compounded the issue if they were not properly cleaned.
Microbial levels in water tend to be carefully controlled in these types of environments, she said. “But nobody looks at the ice,” she adds.
All three chains claim to be conducting their own investigations into the findings.
Head of policy at the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health Tony Lewis also considers the findings to be concerning. However, he adds: “Given that there are tens of thousands of coffee shops around the UK we have to put this into context. You can’t generalise from the small sample size we have here.”