Who doesn’t love a nice cold coffee on warm weeks like this one?! This is probably the last thing you want to read before you take your next sip of that iced coffee in your hands, but a new study reveals there’s a good chance that the ice in your drink has traces of fecal coliform (a.k.a. poop).
A BBC investigative report from the UK found traces of fecal matter in the iced drinks of popular chains…including Starbucks. Just how high are the levels of contamination? 30 per cent of the iced drinks at Starbucks tested positive for fecal coliform, and a whopping 70 per cent of the drinks at another UK coffee shop, Costa, had it. Health repercussions of ingesting the bacteria include upset stomach, diarrhea, ear infections and rashes.
Now you might be thinking that you’re safe here in North America, but it’s a matter of ice contamination and handling practices…something that we’re not immune from here in Canada. In fact, a 2016 Canadian study from Ryerson University found that of 64 ice samples collected from 40 food establishments in Toronto, 7.8 per cent of them tested positive for fecal coliform.
WHY you may ask?
“This has always been an issue with ice,” says Keith Warriner, a food safety professor at the University of Guelph. “It’s because these places use municipal water, which has chlorine in it, to make ice, so they have to take the chlorine out otherwise the ice will taste awful. They’ll pass the water through a filter first, but if that filter hasn’t been cleaned or changed, there will be a buildup of biofilm bacteria that can have things like fecal coliform and E. coli. Unfortunately, these ice machines don’t get cleaned very often,” he says.
A Starbucks Canada spokesperson said: “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.”
Is it still appropriate to say ‘bottoms up’?!?!