The last thing you’re probably expecting to ingest with your Starbucks iced coffee are fleeting amounts of poop. But according to a test conducted in the United Kingdom by the BBC’s consumer series, "Watchdog," some of the largest caffeine peddlers in the world were found guilty of harboring poop bacteria in their ice, meaning your favored cold brew may have more in common with the bottom of a toilet bowl than you’d like to imagine.
According to the tests, ice samples from three prominent chains in the UK -- Starbucks, Costa and Nero -- were found to contain fecal coliforms, albeit to varying degrees. Seven out of 10 samples of Costa ice contained poop bacteria, while three out of 10 ice samples from Starbucks and Nero were also contaminated. It's worth noting, though, that this is a small sample size for chains with thousands of locations.
The implications, as anyone remotely familiar with poop can tell you, aren't great. Tony Lewis of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, told the BBC: "The level of contamination of fecal bacteria 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."
Fecal coliforms are a pretty resilient form of bacteria that can withstand the process of human digestion. They’re found in the fecal matter and digestive systems of warm blooded animals, and according to the Environmental Protection Agency, are commonly associated with an “increased risk of gastrointestinal illness and less often identified respiratory illness” if consumed in high-volumes.
For their part, the coffee chains are taking the necessary steps to rid their ice supplies of poop. Costa says it's updating the way employees handle ice while Nero is conducting a "thorough investigation." A Starbucks spokesperson tells Thrillist:
“We want to reassure our customers that we take hygiene and cleanliness extremely seriously, and we have moved quickly to conduct our own investigation into the claims. All employees in the UK 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.”
So far, there’s no word on whether American Starbucks stores have began taking precautions to ferret out any rogue turd molecules in its ice machines.
In any case, it’s safe to say you’re more surrounded by feces and urine than comfort should permit. It’s just posits more alarm than usual when it comes to anything besides your community swimming pool, let alone coffee chains.