Since opening two years ago, Starbuck’s central Hong Kong branch has been using “toilet water” to brew its coffee. Understandably, patrons are very upset. Up to 70 times a day, an employee of this Starbucks would push a cart from the coffee shop to a local parking garage, fill up the cart with water from a sink next to the urinal, and take the water back to Starbucks for filtering and use. There was no other nearby water source.
Hygiene concerns were certainly raised by customers, which were quickly addressed by Hong Kong’s Food and Environmental Hygiene Department who stated that the use of this bathroom water was “not within regulations”. They have since issued a warning to the Hong Kong cafe to discontinue use of this water immediately.
While filtering the water would remove the majority of contaminants, University of Hong Kong’s School of Public Health professor, Ben Cowling, states that a purifier would also need to be added in order to catch smaller viruses that may be present in the water. He also pointed out 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.”
On the Starbuck’s Facebook page, a patron and Hong Kong resident, Kevin L. wrote “Making huge profits globally but chose [SIC] to use toilet water for making coffee in that store rather than spending a few cents to use distilled water. We pay a few dollars to buy a cup of coffee (and you know your profit margin) and we get this kind of disrespect for our mind and health!”