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'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).