A Starbucks in Hong Kong has been using toilet water to brew its coffee.
Photos taken at the chain’s Bank of China Tower building which is located in the city’s business district, appeared to show a man collecting water from a parking garage men’s bathroom faucet near to a urinal. Reportedly, the toilet water was then reportedly placed in a container on a cart and taken to the coffee shop.
Images of the unsavory practice were first published in the Hong Kong tabloid Apple Daily, who claim Starbucks staff collect water from the public restroom several times a day and use it to brew coffee.
The publication did note that staff filtered the water beforehand. It’s believed the store has been using toilet water since it opened in 2011.
Agence France-Presse reports that the store has admitted using the faucet in its coffee brewing.
Starbucks spokeswoman Wendy Pang said: “There is no direct water supply to that particular store, that’s why we need to obtain the drinking water from the nearest source in the building.”
She added that the shop has now switched to using distilled water.
The revelations have sparked outrage from Hong Kong consumers.
“The initial decision by Starbucks to use water from toilet is a clear sign of your company’s vision and the level of (dis)respect your company has for the health and mind of your customers,” a Facebook user wrote on the Starbucks’ Hong Kong Facebook wall, reports the AFP.
Although the store has now changed its practice, Hong Kong University School of Public Health associate professor Benjamin Cowling told HK Magazine that while previous filtering may have removed bacteria it could have missed viruses.
“The issue that is more worrying,” Cowling explained, “… is the potential risk of transferring pathogens from the restroom environment into the Starbucks food preparation area.”
He added: “I wouldn’t go to the restaurant in the first place if I knew they were having potentially risky hygiene practices.”
Starbucks have now issued a public apology.