Fast food giant KFC has inspected and cleaned hundreds of ice machines installed at its UK restaurants after becoming implicated in the ice hygiene row affecting several major chains.
BBC Watchdog researchers claim they found evidence of faecal coliforms from drinks purchased at KFC, McDonald’s and Burger King in the UK, just a week after the finger was pointed at Costa, Starbucks and Caffe Nero over the same issue.
The Watchdog team tested ice from 10 branches of each restaurant across the UK, with KFC faring worst. They found coliforms in 7/10 branches of KFC, 3/10 branches of McDonald’s and 6/10 branches of Burger King. Five of the samples taken at KFC contained what has been described as “significant” levels of coliforms.
KFC bosses reacted to the allegations by “immediately” taking the ice machines in the restaurants affected out of use and conducting a thorough investigation. It has also ordered that ice machines in all its UK restaurants are inspected and cleaned. KFC operates around 900 stores in the UK.
A spokesperson from KFC told national press: “We are shocked and extremely disappointed by these results. We have strict procedures for the management and handling of ice, including daily and weekly inspections and cleaning of the ice machine and storage holds, as well as the routine testing of ice quality across our business.
“We immediately shut down the ice machines in the restaurants affected to conduct a thorough clean and inspection, and reinforced the importance of adhering to our strict procedures to all employees. The restaurants all have an Environmental Health Officer (EHO) hygiene rating of four or five out of five, and we are awaiting the results of independent testing of the ice that will confirm they are back up to the standards we expect.
“To reassure customers we have also inspected and cleaned the ice machines in all other restaurants across the UK.”
McDonald’s, meanwhile, defended its “robust” catering equipment procedures in the UK and said it would back the introduction of an ice production standard.
A spokesperson for the chain said: “We have robust procedures in place with regard to the production, storage and handling of ice in our UK restaurants. Nothing is more important than the safety of our customers and people and we will continue to review our procedures and training, working closely with our restaurant teams to ensure those procedures are adhered to at all times.
“Hygiene and safety practices are of the utmost importance to us and we’re proud that 99% of our restaurants have an independent hygiene rating of either good or very good. Like many UK food retailers, our ice is made by freezing drinking water using commercial ice machines. As the investigation highlights, there are no specific ice production standards in place, only those relating to unfrozen drinking water. We would therefore welcome the introduction of an agreed standard and would be happy to work with relevant industry bodies.”
A Burger King spokesperson said that cleanliness and hygiene remained a “top priority” for the brand. “The strict procedures we have in place are designed to ensure all guests have a positive experience each time they visit our restaurants. We are proactively working with our franchisees in the UK to reinforce these procedures. This report is an opportunity for us to emphasise our training procedures and ensure all operations and safety standards are upheld in all Burger King restaurants.”
Last week, FEJ reported how BBC investigators found that ice from three of the UK’s biggest coffee shop chains contained varying levels of bacteria from faeces.