Creepy headlines may discourage you from taking that Starbucks coffee break today ... A branch of the chain in the famous Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong has been using bathroom tap water to make beverages since October 2011. A local newspaper broke the story, showing the tap with a sign that said "Starbucks only" a few feet away from a toilet in the less-than-spotless bathroom, which the paper notes is in the building's car park. Gross!
A Starbucks spokesperson admitted that the water was collected less than five times a day by staff from a tap in a lavatory located near the shop -- and says it was dedicated for collecting drinking water. The rationale: There is apparently no direct water supply to that particular store, so the employees have no choice but to get water from the nearest source in the building. Which is in the bathroom. Fantastic.
Attempting to reassure consumers further, the spokesperson noted that the water from the lavatory tap would go through a filtration system in the shop ensuring it passed local and World Health Organization standards. Plus, the Starbucks in question is now using distilled water. Why they weren't doing that from the beginning, I guess we'll never know ...!
Granted, this was in China. But as some fans have written on Starbucks' Hong Kong Facebook wall, something like this can't help but reflect poorly on the company overall. I'd take it one step further ... Stories like this don't exactly make us feel good about eating out in GENERAL.
We can't help but be reminded that when we buy food or drinks prepared out of our homes, we just have to trust and hope that they were made in a hygienic way/environment. Some major US cities like LA and NYC thankfully have a rating system for diners to refer to -- you can look on the window and see if that cafe or take-out spot gets a grade "A" for cleanliness. But still, who's to say that ANY dining establishment might not have their own dirty little secrets like this Hong Kong Starbucks?
Having just gotten back from my honeymoon in Hawaii, where most restaurants tell you exactly where all their ingredients came from -- down to the fisherman who caught the fish or the farmer who grew those tomatoes -- I feel a bit spoiled. I understand that asking for more dining establishments to be THAT transparent may be asking for too much. But we should definitely be more reassured that what we're buying isn't being prepared in a way that could make us ill!
Does news like this freak you out about eating out?
Image via loonyhiker/Flickr