Drinks at a number of popular fast food chains have been found to contain faecal bacteria due to contaminated ice.
Researchers at BBC ‘Watchdog’ found evidence of faecal coliforms from drinks purchased at McDonald’s, KFC and Burger King in the UK.
Coliforms can indicate if products have been contaminated by the bacteria.
The team tested ice from 10 random branches of each restaurant across the UK and found coliforms in ice at 3/10 branches of McDonald’s, 6/10 branches of Burger King and 7/10 branches of KFC.
The news comes just weeks after an investigation uncovered faecal bacteria in drinks from Costa, Starbucks and Caffe Nero
According to the Liverpool Echo, four of the samples taken at Burger King and five at KFC were described as having “significant” levels of coliforms, yet the acceptable level for this type of bacteria in drinking water is zero.
In a statement supplied by McDonald’s, Tom Humphrey, an independent Professor of bacteriology and food safety, said: “It is pleasing that Escherichia coli (E. coli), the bacterium that is the most accurate and reliable indicator of faecal contamination, was not found in any ice samples from McDonald’s restaurants.
“Low levels of two other indicator bacteria, coliforms and enterococci, were found in some ice samples. These can be used as an assessment of water hygiene but, as they are widely distributed in the natural environment, they are not reliable indicators of potential health risks.”
A spokesperson for McDonald’s added: “We have robust procedures in place with regard to the production, storage and handling of ice in our UK restaurants. Nothing is more important than the safety of our customers and people and we will continue to review our procedures and training, working closely with our restaurant teams to ensure those procedures are adhered to at all times.
“Hygiene and safety practices are of the utmost importance to us and we’re proud that 99% of our restaurants have an independent hygiene rating of either good or very good.
“Like many UK food retailers, our ice is made by freezing drinking water using commercial ice machines.
“As the investigation highlights, there are no specific ice production standards in place, only those relating to unfrozen drinking water. We would therefore welcome the introduction of an agreed standard and would be happy to work with relevant industry bodies.”
A spokesperson from KFC said: “We are shocked and extremely disappointed by these results. We have strict procedures for the management and handling of ice, including daily and weekly inspections and cleaning of the ice machine and storage holds, as well as the routine testing of ice quality across our business.
“We immediately shut down the ice machines in the restaurants affected to conduct a thorough clean and inspection, and reinforced the importance of adhering to our strict procedures to all employees.
“The restaurants all have an Environmental Health Officer (EHO) hygiene rating of four or five out of five, and we are awaiting the results of independent testing of the ice that will confirm they are back up to the standards we expect.
“To reassure customers we have also inspected and cleaned the ice machines in all other restaurants across the UK.”
A Burger King spokesperson said: “Cleanliness and hygiene are a top priority for the Burger King brand.
“The strict procedures we have in place are designed to ensure all guests have a positive experience each time they visit our restaurants.
“We are proactively working with our franchisees in the UK to reinforce these procedures.
“This report is an opportunity for us to emphasise our training procedures and ensure all operations and safety standards are upheld in all Burger King® restaurants.”
Watchdog will air Wednesday 19 July at 8pm.