BBC investigation finds faecal bacteria in major coffee chains


Samples taken from iced drinks in some of the UK’s leading coffee chains have been found to contain “concerning” levels of faecal bacteria.

In a BBC Watchdog investigation, which is due to air at 8pm on BBC One on June 28th, samples from Costa Coffee, Starbucks and Caffe Nero discovered varying levels of bacteria known as faecal coliforms.

Faecal coliforms form in the intestines of warm-blooded animals and can include bacteria like Escherichia coli (E. coli) which can be a cause of serious cases of food poisoning.

Read 10 facts about E. coli bacteria here

The results found that seven out of ten samples of ice were contaminated from Costa Coffee, whilst for Starbucks and Caffe Nero three out of ten samples showed evidence of faecal coliforms.

As well as ice machines being tested, tables, trays and high chairs were also swabbed across 30 branches.

Commenting on the findings, Tony Lewis from the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) told Watchdog: “The level of contamination of faecal bacteria concerns me a great deal.

“The bacteria found are opportunistic pathogens, the source of human disease.  These should not be present at any level, never mind the significant numbers found.”

Costa Coffee, Starbucks and Caffe Nero have all said they are carrying out their own internal investigations to ensure that hygiene standards are improved across their stores, with improved staff training and upgrades of equipment where necessary also promised.

It’s not the first time that the hospitality sector has been targeted as a point of concern for health experts, with a Journal of Environmental Health study once showing that around 70% of samples of lemon slices taken from bars produced some form of microbial growth.

As well as ensuring that any equipment used is cleaned regularly, one of the best ways of reducing the risk of pathogens being spread is by ensuring staff are practicing good hand hygiene.

Although it seems like a simple enough task to carry out, hand washing with regular soap and water can be extremely effective when carried out properly.  

Click here to learn how you should be washing your hands to make sure that the most bacteria can be removed

Are your coffee drinking habits likely to change as a result of the findings?

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