BBC One’s Watchdog Live has reported finding “unacceptably high” levels of dangerous bacteria in Costa and Subway hospital cafes.
The investigation took samples from ice, trays and tables at hospital cafes, which were chosen at random.
Samples were taken from 10 branches of Costa and Subway.
What did they find?
From Costa Coffee, samples from the ice revealed both salmonella and staphylococcus. Salmonella was also present in two of the samples taken from tables.
Staphylococcus was found in four tray samples and one table sample.
For Subway, salmonella was found in two tray samples and four table samples.
A sample of ice and tray also returned staphylococcus for Subway.
What are the risks?
Salmonella is a bacteria that is the most common cause for food poisoning.
With food poisoning, symptoms usually last between four to seven days and resolve without treatment, but salmonella can cause more serious illnesses.
For the elderly, young children and people with compromised immune systems, salmonella poses a greater risk for becoming severely ill through salmonella poisoning.
Staphylococcus is the bacteria responsible for staph infections.
Staph infections usually affect the skin and symptoms can include a painful red lump, hot, red and swollen skin, sores, crusts or blisters and sore, red eyelids or eyes.
Staph bacteria can also be the cause of much more serious infections, such as blood poisoning and toxic shock syndrome.
If the staph bacteria works its way into your bloodstream, you can develop a type of infection that affects your entire body called sepsis.
What does this mean?
The presence of such bacteria is an indicator of poor hygiene practices, according to environmental health specialist, Sian Buckley.
The results of the investigation is worrying as customers in hospital cafes are highly vulnerable.
Buckley said, “Hygiene practices should be good across all food businesses, but in this environment, there is a greater responsibility to ensure that practices are managed very effectively.”
What do Costa and Subway say?
A spokesperson for Costa Coffee said that the company was “very disappointed” with the findings of the investigation.
Nine out of the 10 stores tested all carried a Food Hygiene Rating of five, whilst the tenth was still waiting for inspection by the Local Authority.
“We believe Costa Coffee stores provide a valuable service within hospitals, offering a familiar and comfortable environment for customers and it is extremely important to us that, as with our High Street stores, they operate to high standards of hygiene and robust cleaning processes, in line with the Food Standard Agency’s advice,” the spokesperson said.
"We are confident we have the right policies, procedures and equipment in place but following these results have taken immediate action to review how they are implemented and to conduct independent checks at all our hospital stores.”
In regards to the investigation, Subway stated that, while their stores are owned by independent franchise owners, they are still subject to the same policies and procedures.
A spokesperson for the chain stated that each of the franchise owners for the hospital stores investigated were contacted, and all confirmed that they were following the policies and procedures in place.
The spokesperson added, “We can confirm that each of these stores has had an additional deep clean over and above their regular cleaning schedule to ensure stringent cleanliness and food safety priorities are met. All ten Subway hospital sites carry an EHO 5* rating."
The new series of BBC Watchdog Live starts Wednesday 1st May at 8pm on BBC One and on iPlayer.