A recently aired episode of BBC show Watchdog reveals that several branches of three big fast food chains tested positive for presence of fecal coliforms on drinking water and ice samples used for its beverages.
According to Watchdog investigators, 10 branches of McDonald's, Burger King, and KFC across the United Kingdom were randomly selected and returned shocking results with three, six, and seven branches, respectively, tested positive for fecal bacteria.
Among the results, four Burger King and five KFC branches revealed significant levels of contamination, which is saying a lot since there is no safe "minimum" level of contamination when it comes to the pathogenic bacteria, especially when it is for human consumption.
"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," Tony Lewis expressed. Lewis is the Head of Policy and Education at the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health.
Lewis also added that there is also a need to investigate whether the ice machines could have caused the contamination.
Fast Food Chains React
The management of all three fast food chains were quick to assure that hygiene is a top priority in their respective branches, but they also reinforced strict procedures after the shocking discovery.
It appears that the Colonel was not amused at the discovery, so KFC is whipping its UK branches back in top shape.
"We are shocked and extremely disappointed by these results ... We immediately shut down the ice machines in the restaurants affected to conduct a thorough clean and inspection ... we are awaiting the results of independent testing of the ice that will confirm they are back up to the standards we expect," a KFC spokesperson said.
He also added that all other UK branches were subjected to the same inspection to reassure consumers that it is taking the situation seriously.
Burger King also reinforced its training procedures with more emphasis on the health and safety standards that all its restaurants and staff must uphold.
McDonald's also took the issue seriously and said that current regulations only cover unfrozen drinking water, therefore, regulations need to be improved to include ice production. The company also cited comments from an expert in an attempt to assure its customers that the fast food chain takes food safety seriously.
"It is pleasing that Escherichia coli (E. coli), the bacterium that is the most accurate and reliable indicator of fecal 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 ... but, as they are widely distributed in the natural environment, they are not reliable indicators of potential health risks," McDonald's cited bacteriology and food safety professor Tom Humphrey.