Of Britain's most popular chains, six of every 10 have more bacteria in their ice than in water found in their toilets
, an investigation by The Mail on Sunday has found.
McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, and Starbucks were among the chains with more bacteria in their ice than in toilet water, based on samples taken from lavatory bowls and ice machines. Experts told The Mail ice machines are likely cleaned less frequently than toilets.
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None of the samples presented an immediate health danger, but four contained such high levels of microbes the restaurants should be considered a "hygiene risk," according to a Government-accredited laboratory. The four eateries were McDonald’s, KFC, Burger King and Nando’s, a European chain.
At Burger King and Nando's, the levels of bacteria in ice were more than double what scientists say they expect to see in drinking water.
An accredited environmental health practitioner collected samples of toilet water from 10 chains in Basingstoke and Hampshire, and staff provided samples of ice in sterile bags.
Microtech Services Wessex in Bournemouth, Dorset tested the samples.
Experts said high bacteria levels in samples from McDonald’s, KFC, and Nando’s were likely caused by "environmental issues," such as a dirty ice machine, meanwhile, Burger King's ice machines were likely contaminated by staff who failed to wash their hands.
In wake of the findings, Burger King, KFC, and Europe's Café Rouge are addressing the situation. Burger King said they were investigating the franchise. KFC said they retrained staff on procedures, and Café Rouge said they were taking immediate action to review the ice-making process.
Starbucks claims the ice sample had been inadvertently contaminated when staff opened the sterile bag before it was tested. Meanwhile, Nando's said the company challenges the findings.
Melody Greenwood, a former laboratory director for the Health Protection Agency, said restaurants need to ensure staff is properly trained.
"This is a warning," she said. "It is easy to forget ice can carry bacteria because they think it is too cold for germs, but that is far from the truth. Nasty bugs such as E.coli can lurk in ice machines. In some cases, such as Nando’s, we found double the amount of bacteria we would expect to find [in drinking water]. This is caused by things such as a failure to clean machines and scoops used by staff."
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