Fancy a Mocha Frappe? Or perhaps an Ice Blended Double Chocolate Cookie Mocha will hit that spot in this sweltering heat. But before ordering that Frappe Creme Coffee and Caramel, perhaps it is best to know that ice from Starbucks, Caffe Nero, and Costa Coffee all contain bacteria found in human feces.
According to BBC’s consumer series Watchdog, samples of the iced drinks from these three major coffee chains were tested, and the results revealed varying levels of the bacteria. Seven out of 10 samples of ice used in Costa Coffee tested positive with bacteria from human poop, while three out of 10 samples from both Caffe Nero and Starbucks tested the same.
Rob Kingsley, an expert in food-borne pathogens and a research leader at Quadram Institute Bioscience, told the Guardian that the findings were extremely concerning. This is because the presence of coliforms indicates fecal contamination, and this means that, essentially, anything in feces could be in that ice.
“It is an indicator that somewhere there has been some kind of breakdown in hygiene or the source of the water used for this ice,” the expert said.
“I would certainly think twice about eating something which may contain fecal contamination at that level, where it is detectable.”
Margarita Gomez Escalada, a microbiologist and senior lecturer at Leeds Beckett University, said that most likely, unclean hands handled the ice that was contaminated. It could also be that the ice machines and ice buckets compounded the issue if they were not properly cleaned.
“The levels allowed by law of bacteria in tap water are super low, so we would find say maybe 10 microorganisms per milliliter—we found hundreds per milliliter,” Escalada revealed.
Meanwhile, according to the Guardian, Tony Lewis, the head of policy at the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, pointed out that the sample size of the investigation was small, and therefore the public should not panic about it. He added that some of the bacteria found would have been “good bacteria.”
Lewis urged the public not to give up their iced coffees as the companies involved take hygiene seriously and would have taken action. Also, environmental health officials had been notified.
On the other hand, Gomez Escalada said that the issue needs to be tackled, as more often than not, even if microbial levels in water are carefully controlled, ice is often overlooked.
Starbucks, Caffe Nero, and Costa Coffee have all responded to the findings, saying that they are taking steps in the matter. BBC News reports that Costa had updated its ice-handling guidelines and is in the process of introducing new ice equipment storage. On the other hand, Starbucks is now conducting its own investigation regarding the matter. Caffe Nero also said the same, saying a “thorough investigation” was underway and the chain would take “appropriate action.”
[Featured Image by Chris Hondros/Getty Images]