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Barcelona Beach Vendors Busted for Selling E. Coli-Tainted Mojitos, Storing Ingredients in Sewers

Remember this next time you envy your friend's Instagram dispatch from Playa de la Barceloneta.

Last August, Spanish newspaper El Pais reported that more than 90 police officers had been assigned to the beaches of Barcelona, Spain, and they spent the hot summer months trying to catch vendors who sold unauthorized mojitos and sandwiches to SPF-drenched tourists. During a two month mid-summer span, the cops confiscated more than 133,000 illegally prepared drinks—and it’s not because they’re cracking down on cocktails. Those bootleg beach mojitos are often prepared in unsanitary conditions, and, according to lab tests, they also have a habit of being tainted with fecal bacteria.


Unfortunately, that nasty-ass tradition has continued this summer as well. Eighteen unlicensed drinks vendors have recently been arrested, after officers from the Guardia Civil conducted health safety inspections on and around the city’s beaches. Not only were these sellers making drinks without the proper paperwork; they’ve also been known to store their ingredients in garbage cans and sewers. The officers confiscated these ingredients and tested them, and E. coli was detected in bags of ice and in packages containing mint.

In a press release, the Guardia Civil reminded everyone that E. coli can cause “diarrhea, gastroenteritis and other digestive disorders,” which is great news for anyone who’s reading this while they sip a mojito on the Barceloneta beach. “We now have the scientific confirmation that these products have a bacterium that can be dangerous," the head of the Urban Police said according to El Periodico.

The city’s residents have complained about the vendors and their less-than-healthy drink preparations for several years. In August, one local told El Periodico that some mojito-makers had been spotted making drinks in alleyways before going to the beach, and they were served in re-used glasses with re-used straws. “I often tell foreigners that I come from the bar in front of them, and they believe me, so I sell [each mojito] for €15 ($17.50) or €20 ($23.35),” one seller shrugged.

Although the Guardia Civil has not yet released the results of its lab tests, when El Pais analyzed a sample of unauthorized beach mojitos last summer, the drink contained more than 70 times the acceptable limit for bacterial coliforms, and also contained traces of E. coli.

So where can you buy a canned mojito? Something with a safety seal sounds super refreshing right now.