Ice cubes at KFC restaurants in China are riddled with 13 times more bacteria than toilet water, according to the government’s official media outlet.
Reporters from China Central Television (CCTV) tested ice from Beijing locations of fast-food outlets including KFC, McDonald’s and the Chinese chain Kungfu. KFC’s were the worst, with 900 colony-forming units of bacteria per millileter, which is well above the national limit of 100 CFU.
McDonald’s ice fared better but still ran afoul of the national limit, at 120 CFU, while Kungfu’s bacteria levels were six times higher than toilet water.
The high level of bacteria means a greater chance of catching pathogens that cause dysentery and diarrhea, experts told CCTV. Dirty ice machines, poor sterilization procedures and lax food safety measures, such as employees’ failure to wash hands, were named as probable reasons for the contamination.
This report isn’t the first to point out the ick factor in fast-food ice. In 2006, 12-year-old Jasmine Roberts collected ice from South Florida fast-food restaurants for her middle school science project and found 70% of the the ice was dirtier than toilet water.
Gross as it sounds, you may not need to worry, ABC medical contributor Dr. David Katz said at the time.
“These [bacteria] don’t belong there,” Katz said. “It’s not cause for panic, although it is alarming because what she found is nothing new. You’re not more likely to get sick now.”
The Chinese report didn’t specify what kinds of bacteria were found in the ice — it merely listed the number.
“The [headline] might be a little eye-grabbing, but it’s not that useful — for instance, the bacteria count on your teeth or on the bottom of your shoe is about the same,” food safety expert Dong Qingli told First Financial Daily, according to Quartz. “Instead you should look at which actual bacteria types exceeded levels.”
Still, it was enough to garner an apology from KFC, McDonald’s and Kungfu, which have all vowed to step up their sterilization measures, the CCTV report said.
CCTV previously accused KFC of using “fast-growth chickens” — chickens fed a toxic chemical-laced diet to speed up their growth cycle — but upon testing, the birds and their feed were found to meet Chinese national standards.