The ice at Starbucks — it makes your summer beverage so refreshing, and also might contain a tiny bit of feces. The BBC’s consumer series Watchdog ran some tests on the ice used in several coffee chains’ cold drinks, and fecal coliforms turned up in everybody’s, unfortunately. According to the program, the bacteria were present in 30 percent of Starbucks’s drinks, and 70 percent of the drinks at Costa Coffee (Britain’s second-largest coffee chain, so basically its version of Dunkin’ Donuts).
Fecal coliforms are a special kind of bacteria capable of withstanding the digestive tract’s harsh conditions. A little freezing cold is no big deal, in other words; they actually colonize ice machines with alarming regularity — enough for an NYU microbiologist to regrettably inform people after poo particles surfaced in Virginia soda fountains in 2010, “We’re basically bathed in feces as a society.” But from a disease-getting perspective, what matters is the level of contamination. And that level, as revealed by the BBC’s tests, “concerns me a great deal,” a spokesperson for the food-safety group Chartered Institute of Environmental Health tells Watchdog, adding: “These should not be present at any level, never mind the significant numbers found.”
Starbucks, Costa, and Caffè Nero — a third coffee chain that flunked the tests — all say they’re reevaluating their ice-handling procedures. Starbucks notes that it has “high standards of hygiene including ice handling,” but has committed to conducting a full internal investigation anyway. Now there’s a new explanation any time someone complains Starbucks tastes crappy.