Put that iced coffee down: Researchers have found faecal bacteria at some of the UK's biggest high street coffee chains

Emma Haslett
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If you made the mistake of trying to cool off with a frappuccino during the recent heatwave, look away now: investigators have said they discovered faecal bacteria at three of the UK's biggest coffee chains.

Researchers for the BBC's Watchdog series tested tables, trays and high chairs at branches of Costa, Starbucks and Caffe Nero.

They also collected ice samples, and discovered so-called faecal coliforms, pathogens with the potential to make consumers ill or cause infection, in quantities scientists described as "off the scale". Shudder.

Seven out of 10 samples at Costa, three out of 10 samples at Caffe Nero and three out of 10 at Starbucks contained the pathogens.

Tony Lewis, head of policy and education at the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, said the level of contamination "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."

Read more: Over half of UK supermarket chickens are contaminated

"We take hygiene extremely seriously"

The chains in question said they had immediately taken action. Starbucks said:

“We want to assure your viewers that we take hygiene and cleanliness extremely seriously. We have moved quickly to conduct our own investigation into the claims about the stores you have identified. All employees nationwide have received updated training on our high standards of hygiene including ice handling. Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our customers.”

Meanwhile, Costa added: “We were disappointed with the findings, especially as these stores are all rated Very Good with a the top Hygiene Rating of 5... Following these results we took immediate action to review our food safety procedures and have updated our ice handling guidelines and are in the process of introducing new ice equipment storage across our estate.”

Finally, Caffe Nero said: “We take the cleanliness and safety of our stores very seriously. We have a team dedicated solely to ensuring that all aspects of safety are maintained and our stores have detailed and timely cleaning schedules to ensure that they are kept up to standard. These standards are regularly audited by our Operations team.

“We are concerned to read the findings in your recent report and a thorough investigation is now underway and the appropriate action will be taken.”

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