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Wales launches contaminated ice investigation

Stuart Spear10/08/2017 - 13:31

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Iced coffees are the focus of the investigation
Iced coffees are the focus of the investigation

The Welsh Microbiological Forum has launched a four-month investigation into the microbiological quality of ice used to cool drinks from coffee shops across Wales.

The survey follows the recent investigation by the consumer programme Watchdog revealing high levels of faecal coliforms found in ice samples taken from branches of the coffee chains Café Nero, Starbucks and Costa Coffee.

While the BBC investigation was relatively small with only 30 samples of ice tested, the results caused concerns that the microbiological quality of ice used in coffee shops may be poor.

The investigation has prompted CIEH to ask the Welsh Microbiological Forum, which coordinates microbiological sampling across Wales, to launch a nation-wide investigation.

EHOs from each Welsh local authority are being asked to sample ice from local coffee outlets to enumerate the levels of Coliform, E. coli, Faecal streptococcus and aerobic colony counts.

‘Following the BBC investigation I suggested to the forum that we should target ice to see whether we get similar results from the Watchdog survey,’ said Kate Thompson, CIEH director for Wales.

‘At the end of the survey a report will be produced to look at the results all across Wales.’

Local authorities are then being asked to compare findings to see if there is a correlation between contamination levels and poor food hygiene rating scores.

In 1996-7 a major survey of ice used in cool drinks and ready-to-eat food was carried out by the Public Health Laboratory Service and the Local Authority Co-ordinators of Trading Standards. The survey examines 3528 samples of ice from all over the UK revealing that most ice used to cool drinks was of a high microbiological quality.

As a result of the BBC investigation the coffee chains implicated have launched investigations and say they have updated their ice handling guidance and food hygiene training. 

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