BBC One’s Watchdog programme recently revealed how even the best-known UK brands fall foul of standards. Reporters tested fizzy beverages from Cineworld, Odeon and Vue cinemas for bacteria levels with startling results: seven out of the thirty tested branches had unacceptable levels of bacteria.
The bacteria types identified ranged from salmonella in drinks to listeria contaminating drinks holders with levels as much as 10,000-times the acceptable limit. It’s not just the cinemas at fault. Reports of faecal matter on the ice at fast-food outlets have also emerged; while iced drinks at major coffee chains showed the same findings with as many as seven-in-ten drinks from popular UK coffee shop, Costa, testing positive for coliform bacteria.
Even elevated bacteria levels are unlikely to cause illness if you are in good health.Children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems may be more at risk.
Salmonella is a common cause of food poisoning, resulting in diarrhoea, vomiting and fever. The bacteria are usually found on raw meats and poultry but can cross-contaminate other foodstuffs due to poor hygiene. If you contract Salmonella, keep hydrated, take electrolyte supplements and wash your hands to avoid infecting others. If symptoms persist or are severe, seek medical attention, but there should be no long-term effects provided you are adequately treated.
Listeria, like Salmonella, can result from poor hygiene and results in similar symptoms. The listeria bacteria cause listeriosis, which is best treated at home for those in good health. If you have a compromised or weakened immune system, are pregnant, are an infant or elderly – you are advised to seek medical advice to avoid complications.
Coliform bacteria are relatively harmless and help people digest their food. The presence of faecal coliforms indicates poor hygiene given the bacteria comes from the hosts’ intestines. Moreover, the bacteria can indicate the presence of other pathogens, hence the cause for concern if found in high numbers. Elevated levels of bacteria can result in stomach cramps, fever and nausea, which could become severe for those with weaker immune systems.
While you’d hope the health standards of any high street chain are among the best, the findings in Britain suggest otherwise: 70 per cent of tested iced drinks from Costa had elevated bacteria levels; with 30 per cent of samples in both Starbucks and Caffe Nero also above the acceptable threshold.
Unfortunately, fast food chains perform no better: McDonald’s matched Starbucks’ rate for excessive bacteria; Burger King failed in six-out-of-ten drinks; while KFC suffered a similar plight to Costa Coffee. Worryingly, BBC’s Watchdog described the contamination as significant in most of cases. With experts suggesting the findings are either a hygiene issue, or result from contaminated water sources – so, employees are either not washing their hands, or not cleaning the dispensers.
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1. Establish a regular cleaning schedule - List tasks and ask employees to tick each one when completed
2. Provide sinks - A common cause of bacterial contamination comes from cross contamination, such as unwashed hands. Make sure employees have the proper facilities to keep hands clean and establish a clear hygiene policy
3. Check your ice - An area we often overlook; ice, requires more attention. Check supplier quality and ensure your ice trays and dispensers are emptied and thoroughly cleaned.
The presence of bacteria at elevated levels is legitimate grounds for concern. Operators should feel compelled to take the necessary steps to guarantee the safety of their customers. Failure to do so could result in wipedread illness or worse, a risk nobody should be willing to face. Are you confident in the hygiene of your business?