Faecal bacteria has been found in ice at McDonald’s, KFC and Burger King. The BBC’s Watchdog programme tested samples from 10 random branches from each of the fast food chains across the UK.
Tests revealed the bacteria, known as faecal coliforms, were present in three of the McDonald’s samples, six from Burger King and seven from KFC. Of those samples, four taken from Burger King and five at KFC were described as having “significant” levels.
Ice was tested for coliforms that are indicators of faecal contamination, which Defra – the government department that sets water standards in the UK – advises should not be at all present in water used for human consumption.
Watchdog consulted with Tony Lewis, head of policy and education at the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, on the findings. Speaking on the programme, Mr Lewis said: “It’s extremely worrying. When we’re finding the sorts of numbers we’re finding here, you have to look at the people making the ice, handling the ice, which they then transfer into customers’ drinks. And then you also have to look at hygiene failure with potentially the machines themselves: are they being kept clean?”
The news comes just three weeks after it emerged that samples of iced drinks from Costa Coffee, Starbucks, and Caffè Nero contained “varying levels of the bacteria”.
Costa was the worst offender, with seven out of 10 samples “found to be contaminated with bacteria found in faeces”. Starbucks and Caffè Nero also tested positive for the bacteria in three out of 10 samples.
In a statement provided 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 KFC said the company was “shocked and extremely disappointed” by the findings, adding that the company has strict hygiene procedures in place, including regular inspections of ice machines.
“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 spokesperson said.”
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.”