As if KFC (NYSE:YUM) didn't already have trouble enough in its biggest market, China Central Television reported that it found ice cubes in the chain's drinks with bacteria levels 19 times higher than China's national standards for drinking water, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The government-run broadcaster said it compared the ice's contamination to toilet water, and found the KFC ice to have bacteria levels 12 times higher. A local fast-food restaurant, Kongfu, had ice five times as dirty as toilet water, and a McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) had ice that was cleaner than the toilet but still below drinking-water standards.
The three samples of ice came from three restaurants in the southern Chongwenmen district of the capitol, Beijing. All three chains have publicly apologized and promised to fix the problem.
It's easy to assume this is another part of the recent Chinese government crackdown on foreign-owned companies—a KFC sister chain, Little Sheep, was falsely accused of selling fake mutton made of fox, mink and rat meat, and British drug maker GlaxoSmithKline is now the subject of a bribery investigation, for example—but the "toilet water" story isn't something the Chinese invented.
For example, last month the Daily Mail in the U.K. did the same kind of story and found dirtier-than-toilets ice at McDonald's, Burger King, KFC and Starbucks. (The Mail compared the ice with actual toilet water from the restaurants.) The most likely source of the problem: toilets that are cleaned more often than ice machines.
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