Starbucks’ ‘Tropics’ drinks recall concerns over Hepatitis A risk

Image copyright Alamy Image caption Starbucks’ online orders site shows beverages contaminated with small amounts of Hepatitis A

Starbucks has been forced to recall its “Tropics” bottled drinks amid fears they might contain the virus that causes Hepatitis A.

Health officials say there have been 18 reports of people in the US experiencing symptoms in the past seven days.

Despite Starbucks saying that it has not been able to track down all the affected beverages, it insists that the drinks were sold in all Starbucks locations and the problem has now been fixed.

Here’s what you need to know about the health issue.

What is Hepatitis A?

It’s a viral infection usually spread through human faeces or through handling infected food or a contaminated water supply.

It can cause hepatitis, which is a viral infection.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption A Starbucks cup showing a small amount of the virus. It is almost always a safe drinking habit

Symptoms usually appear two to seven days after contact with the virus.

They include nausea, vomiting, fever, and jaundice. If left untreated it can result in liver damage.

In rare cases, it can be fatal.

How are Starbucks supposed to be testing for the virus?

Starbucks uses a major supplier to process the drink mix and a small sample of the drink is sent to be tested.

Image copyright Starbucks Image caption Starbucks has said it has not been able to find all of the products affected

But an independent lab tested some of the drinks for the virus and found the virus in a small amount.

The founder of independent laboratory Resource Genomics, Guy Talarico, said the test methods used by Starbucks were not foolproof.

“What they [Starbucks] do is they apply the worst, most conservative measures in their testing,” he told the BBC.

“They test for all these different things, like virus, contaminant, and these are types of things that aren’t like, ‘Oh my God, this looks like it’s infected’, it looks like it has no contamination, and just it looks normal.”

The virus requires “a small amount of virus” to cause illness, Mr Talarico said.

What is the risk to customers?

Customers should not panic as the drink bottles do not contain the virus.

Starbucks has said it has not been able to trace all of the affected drinks so far.

However, customers at certain locations may still be able to drink the beverage as it was not offered in any other Starbucks store.

It is offering affected customers refunds and free drink replacement.

What is going on with the bagged drinks?

Starbucks customers are now banned from using products that contain 90% or more ice.

The company has now removed all the product from all of its stores in the United States and Canada, as well as Malaysia, Australia and Puerto Rico.

In an email to customers, Starbucks said “in an abundance of caution, all our beverage ice bags have been removed from our stores and all of our products will be labeled and also redesigned to limit the potential of contaminants”.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption A giant polar bear logo graces a Starbucks store in New York

What is Starbucks going to do about this?

It says it has already solved the issue and “all bottled beverage ice bags that has not previously been impacted have been removed”.

There have also been repeated emails sent to customers asking them to use the methods outlined above when making their own drinks, as “an abundance of caution”.

Starbucks has also issued a tweet apologising for any inconvenience.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Starbucks added that it had been able to trace most of the affected drinks

The company emphasised that they have found no infected ice in any of the Ice Breakers or Starbucks Chill cold drinks.

The ice is used to keep drinks cool during the beverage process, but it can also impact the chances of realising how much is left in the container.

What next?

There are no changes to the Starbuck’s normal safety procedures, the company said.

Groups of 15 people ordered by email this morning received refunds of up to $10 (59p) and free drink replacements.

A total of 250,000 customers are affected by the warning, a company spokesman said.

But consumer group Which? warned that if Starbucks had come across the bottle of contaminated food, the infected product could still be in its customers’ hands.

“If it gets into the wrong hands, consumers could still be exposed to the virus,” said the organisation’s group health information officer, Clare Gerada.

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