Ice used for soft drinks at leading fast food chains in the UK were found to contain bacteria usually seen in fecal matter. This comes weeks after the same BBC investigation found similar contaminated ice at Starbuck’s, Caffe Nero, and Costa Coffee.
On the TV Show Watchdog, BBC reported more than half the samples tested at food chains including Burger King, McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) contained coliform bacteria, or bacteria that colonize intestines. Harmful bacteria, such E. coli, however was NOT found according to a spokesperson for McDonalds.
So even though the bacteria discovered would not harm humans if ingested, the potential for a dangerous pathogen exposure is there.
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Samples were taken from 10 random store locations for each of the fast food chains.
Of the samples tested on McDonald’s ice machines, 3 out of 10 samples were contaminated. At Burger King, 6 out of 10 samples tested positive for coliform bacteria and at KFC, 7 out of 10 tested positive.
One theory is the cleaning of the machines and/or handling of the ice is done with direct human hand contact which could have fecal contamination from poor hand washing after bathroom use.
The contamination issues hopefully prompted chains in other countries, such as the US, to reevaluate their procedures on ice and cup handling.
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Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network, iHeart Radio and Board Certified Family Physician