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Starbucks Outlet in Central Reportedly Uses Tap Water from Bathroom to Brew Coffee

A Starbucks outlet at the Bank of China Tower has been brewing coffee with tap water taken from the toilet in the building’s car park since its opening two years ago, reported Apple Daily yesterday.

By Yannie Chan | May 29, 2013

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  • Starbucks Outlet in Central Reportedly Uses Tap Water from Bathroom to Brew Coffee

The Starbucks outlet in question is located on the first floor of the Bank of China Tower in Central. The newspaper said an employee from Starbucks would push a cart with a big bucket to collect water from the carpark’s male bathroom multiple times between nine in the morning and noon. The newspaper’s reporter observed that a plastic hose was used to connect the toilet sink to the bucket. After filling the bucket, the employee would wheel the cart back to the coffee shop.

The complainant who spoke to Apple Daily cited hygienic concerns such as bacteria contamination, since the toilet is small, with only a five-foot distance between the urinal and the tap used by Starbucks.

After surveying the location, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department told Apple Daily that the Central Starbucks’ use of tap water from toilet is not in line with their regulations. They have issued a warning to the responsible party and will follow up with further actions.

Ben Cowling, associate professor from the University of Hong Kong’s School of Public Health wrote to HK Magazine via email that a water filtering system should be good enough to remove harmful bacteria, but a purifier would be needed to remove viruses, which are smaller in size.

Cowling, however, raised another concern. “If the staff need to frequently visit the toilet they may increase the risk of bringing other pathogens from the washroom into their food and drink preparation area,” he wrote.

A Starbucks spokesperson, Grace Lai, said to us that they had to use water from the nearest water source as there is no direct water supply to the coffee shop. She also said that Starbucks takes careful steps to ensure the water is clean and safe to use.

“We want to assure our customers that laboratory tests, conducted in 2011 to 2013, by an independent testing and certification services company, confirmed that water supplied to this store adheres strictly to both local regulatory standards and those stipulated by the World Health Organization,” she said.

But to ease public worries, the Starbucks at the Bank of China tower switched to using distilled water, Ms Lai said.

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