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Wednesday, 5 July 2017

How safe is the ice in your drink?

Food safety issues with contaminated ice  
by Jim Chan - Public Health Inspector (Retired)

A report in United Kingdom recently raised concerns around ice contaminated with bacteria being used in making of drinks and food. The investigation revealed that some ice samples collected from fast food restaurants and cafes tested positive for the bacteria known as faecal coliforms as well as high levels of bacteria. This finding certainly had the consumers questioning the quality, safety and sanitation of the ice in their beverages and food.

(Reprint: BBC News article)

Faecal bacteria 'in ice in Costa, Starbucks and Caffe Nero'

  • 28 June 2017
  • From the sectionBusiness

coffee cupsImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Ice from three of the UK's biggest coffee chains has been found to contain bacteria from faeces, according to a BBC investigation.
Samples of iced drinks from Costa Coffee, Starbucks and Caffe Nero contained varying levels of the bacteria, the BBC's Watchdog found. Expert Tony Lewis said the levels found were "concerning". "These should not be present at any level - never mind the significant numbers found," he added. Cleanliness of tables, trays and high chairs at the chains was also tested at 30 branches. Seven out of 10 samples of Costa ice were found to be contaminated with bacteria found in faeces. At both Starbucks and Caffe Nero, three out of 10 samples tested contained the bacteria known as faecal coliforms.
Mr Lewis, of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, said these kinds of bacteria were "opportunistic pathogens - the source of human disease". Costa said it had updated its ice-handling guidelines and was in the process of introducing new ice equipment storage. Starbucks said it was now conducting its own investigation into the claims. A spokesman said the chain took hygiene "extremely seriously".
Similarly, a Caffe Nero spokesman said "a thorough investigation" was under way, and that the chain would take "appropriate action".

How safe is the ice in you ice coffee?
The presence of contaminants such as bacteria in ice manufactured in food establishments can be a serious food safety issue as contamination can be introduced to ice by
contaminated water supply, dirty utensils, airborne dirt, unsanitary food and ice handling problems by staff that prepare and process food and drinks. The observation of unsanitary ice handling practices indicates that there is also a potential food safety risk for pathogens such as E. coli, Salmonella or Norovirus to contaminate the ice and can increase the risk for food poisoning outbreak. 

To reduce the risk of ice being a source of food poisoning, ice used in preparation and processing of food and drinks shall be made from potable water and shall be handled and stored in a sanitary manner. Most pathogenic microbes do not readily multiply in ice but scientific research has shown that some bacteria and virues can survive in freezing temperature for a long period of time. Therefore, it is important for food business operators to ensure the ice used in food and drink preparation is safe and not to become contaminated by following these tips on ice handling safety (Easy Ice).

Food Safety Tips (Video)


  1. I work in a bar and I have been asked by the manager to carry ice cubes from the ice machine using a plastic bucket and often I have to scoop ice out from the machine by my hand as the ice scoop is also missing, or someone uses it to scoop other stuffs such as soap powder, sugar etc. We often get complaints from customers that the ice drinks tasted funny, also finding dirt, hair etc. in their drinks.

    1. Thanks for the comment. I think your manager should take leadership is setting up a good example for food safety to provide direction to staff to use a clean bucket or container to transport ice cubes and the container should be washed and disinfected regularly. Never use ice scoops for other purposes other than for ice. As for the ice machine, never store food in the ice machine, use the refrigerators or freezers. May be some customers will call the health dept. to complain.

  2. Really Awesome blog, i got so many use full information from this blog about ice cube.. can you share any blog about how to safe ice cube machine with low maintenance.


  3. I work in a fast food restaurant in Jacksonville and saw many times the bar tender used his dirty hands to put ice into customer drinks. When told, the manager protected the bar tender and refused to take action, now, we, the staff are no longer allowed to talk about this. I may tell the health inspector next time she comes in to do inspection.

    1. Your manager should take leadership in setting up a good example for food safety and to provide direction to staff on good personal hygiene, such as wash hands regularly, before handling food & ice, also direct staff to use a clean bucket or container to transport ice cubes and the container should be washed and disinfected regularly. May be you should notify the local health inspector of this incident?

  4. Good read and Great article. I want say that this article is very nice and very informative article.I will make sure to be reading your blog more.

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