Concerning levels of ‘faecal matter’ were found on the tables at a number of Costa Coffee branches in the UK, a documentary has revealed.

In Channel 4’s Dispatches: How Safe Is It Going Out? – which airs Monday evening – scientists investigate how some of the country’s biggest brands have made their cafes and supermarkets safe for customers to visit during the coronavirus pandemic.

The 30-minute documentary, hosted by reporter Morland Sanders, shows how a team of scientists tested over 170 surfaces in six towns and cities across the country.

Along with wearing face masks and social distancing to prevent the spread of Covid-19, the government says the regular cleaning of surfaces in public settings also plays a vital role in limiting indirect transmission.

Many pubs, cafes, restaurants, hotels and retail outlets claim to have brought in new ‘enhanced cleaning’ measures to ensure hygiene and protect the public. 

However, in the documentary, scientists swabbed a table, chair, side plate, a tray and the inside facing handle on the toilet door at a number of Costa branches.

Thirty swabs were sent to the University of Exeter for analysis and were blind tested by microbiologists for bacteria, fungi and mould.

The results revealed that branches in Birmingham, Edinburgh and Cardiff had high levels of bacteria on supposedly ‘clean’ surfaces, including a side plate, a chair and tables.

Additional testing also found the presence of faecal coliforms on two different tables: one in Cardiff, the other in a Birmingham branch.

These results indicate the possible presence of bacteria on these surfaces from the gastrointestinal tract, otherwise known as faecal matter.

Defending the company’s safety and cleaning measures, a spokesperson for Costa explained: ‘The safety of our store teams and customers is our number one priority and we were pleased to learn that no evidence of coronavirus, or indeed any other viruses, was found in any of our stores. 

‘In response to the coronavirus pandemic, we have enhanced our hygiene measures in line with Government guidelines and are confident we have the right policies and procedures in place to keep customers safe.

‘We have re-communicated our cleaning procedures to all our stores and spoken directly to those stores featured in this programme.’

Elsewhere in the documentary, scientists also swabbed high human touchpoints on a number of London buses such as the bell, the handrails and the seats.

They also tested trolley handles in six different branches of the UK’s largest supermarket chain, Tesco.

Bacterial swabs were taken and analysed from 30 Tesco trollies, five in each store trolley park.

In store car parks in Nottingham, Falkirk and Birmingham, some trolley handles displayed significant bacterial count while others, located in the same car park with the same external conditions, displayed virtually no bacterial growth, suggesting inconsistencies with the cleaning procedures in place.

Scientists working with Dispatches did not test for the presence of coronavirus during the programme, rather, the test was to obtain a snapshot of the levels of cleanliness on surfaces the public may encounter when they are out and about.

The tests followed Public Health England guidance on bacterial swab testing to assess the general hygiene of a surface and an indication of how effectively it’s been cleaned.

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Channel 4, Dispatches

World news – GB – Faecal matter discovered on Costa Coffee tables amid pandemic ‘clean up’

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