Prepare to douse yourself liberally with sanitizer, as Channel 4’s Dispatches made a disgusting discovery last night.

They found ‘concerning levels’ of faecal matter on the tables at a number of Costa Coffee branches in the UK.

The documentary, Dispatches: How Safe Is It Going Out? examined the hygiene standards at some of the country’s biggest brands, and a team of scientists looked at how the brands have made their premises safe for customers to visit throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

The team tested surfaces at over 170 venues in six different towns and cities across the UK.

Many cafes and restaurants say they have increased their cleaning schedules to try to prevent transmission of the virus, with Costa saying they sanitise surfaces every 30 minutes at the very least.

To put these claims to the test, the Dispatches scientists took swabs from various surfaces. They checked a table and chair, a side plate, a tray, and the inside facing handle on the toilet door at several Costa branches.

Thirty of these swabs were blind tested for bacteria, fungi, and mould at the University Of Exeter.

The horrifying results revealed branches in Birmingham, Cardiff and Edinburgh had high levels of bacteria on surfaces that were supposedly ‘clean’.

This included a side plate, a chair and tables. Additional tests revealed the presence of faecal coliforms on two different tables. One was found in Cardiff, another in Birmingham.

The test results show the possible presence of bacteria on these surfaces from the gastrointestinal tract, otherwise known as faecal matter.

A spokesperson for Costa defended the company’s safety and cleaning measures:  ‘The safety of our store teams and customers is our number one priority and we were pleased to learn that no evidence of coronavirus, or indeed any other viruses, was found in any of our stores.’

They continued: ‘In response to the coronavirus pandemic, we have enhanced our hygiene measures in line with Government guidelines and are confident we have the right policies and procedures in place to keep customers safe. We have re-communicated our cleaning procedures to all our stores and spoken directly to those stores featured in this programme.’

However, scientists working with Dispatches didn’t test for the presence of coronavirus.  The test was planned to survey the cleanliness of surfaces you may come into contact with while out and about.

It wasn’t just cafes though, the team also swabbed the bell, the handrails and the seats on  London buses, and tested trolley handles in six different branches of Tesco.

Swabs were taken from 30 Tesco trollies, five from each store car park. Nottingham, Falkirk and Birmingham all had some trolley handles with significant bacterial count while others, in the same car park with the same conditions, displayed virtually no bacterial growth. The team posed that this shows cleaning procedures are inconsistent.

The team also tested rooms in Britannia hotels, swabbing the surfaces and TV remotes that had supposedly been freshly cleaned.

In 3 branches of Britannia hotels in Liverpool, Newcastle and Edinburgh the scientists found indicators of faecal coliforms on surfaces in the rooms, and in 4 of the 5 Britannia sites visited, they found bacteria growing on TV remotes – which had come packaged in a sealed bag promising they’ve been sanitised.

Are you surprised by this?

Images via Alamy