What Is Fecal Coliform and Why Is It in My Coffee?


A small BBC investigation team discovered that iced coffee products from several coffee chains including Caffe Nero, Costa Coffee and even Starbucks were contaminated with a bacteria called fecal coliform.

So, what is fecal coliform? No, it’s not fecal matter.  “It’s a large group of bacteria that can be found in feces,” said Ben Chapman, a food safety specialist and an associate professor at North Carolina State University. “However, the bacteria can also be found in many other things in the environment, such as fruits and vegetables.”

Fecal coliform are bacterial “indicators”, meaning they indicate that something may be present that could make a person sick, but its presence doesn’t signify that someone will for sure get sick. The bacteria also acts as an aid for the digestion of food.

Chapman went on to say that it was unclear as to what type of testing the investigators used for the BBC report. In addition to this, if the investigators only looked for bacterial DNA, then we would have no indication if the bacteria was alive or dead.

“We eat dead bacteria all the time,” Chapman added. As a reference to the fact that dead bacteria aren’t going to make people sick.

Read more.



(2017). Faecal bacteria ‘In ice in costa, Starbucks and Caffe Nero’. BBC.

Retrieved from



Miller, S. G., (2017). No, There Isn’t Poop in Your Iced Coffee. Live Science.

Retrieved from



Oram, B. (2014). Fecal Coliform Bacteria in Water. Water Research Center.

Retrieved from