Ice contamination is a serious public health concern. Source water contamination, mold, mildew- and slime-contaminated contact surfaces in the ice machines, unsanitized ice scoops, and cross contamination in the handling process are leading causes of packaged ice contamination.
University of Georgia researchers examined the microbiological quality of packaged ice produced and bagged at retail locations (convenience stores, liquor stores, fast-food restaurants and gas stations) as well as self-serve vending machines and compared those results with ice that complies with the International Packaged Ice Association's (IPIA’s) Packaged Ice Quality Control Standards (PIQCS). The study found that no samples taken from IPIA facilities had negative findings, as the researchers said, “No coliforms or E. Coli were detected in the ice from manufacturing plants (IPIA) which indicates good sanitary, hygienic practices may have been in place.”
The results weren’t as good for packaged ice produced by on-premises retail stores and self-serve vending machines. Results from the University of Georgia researchers found that :
13.6% contained one of the two potent contaminants E. coli and enterococci.
38% fell outside the acceptable range for PH in the chemical analysis.
38% contained an unsatisfactory level of coliforms - significant enough to indicate sanitation problems.
1 sample contained Salmonella - a deadly bacterium seen recently in many food-borne outbreaks.
1 sample contained Enterobacter agglomerans - from a self-service vending machine
The only way to completely protect your family against this risk of contaminated ice is to make sure you are buying packaged ice manufactured by a member of the IPIA. Consumers can look for the IPIA logo when purchasing packaged ice in member branded packaging and a growing number of retail private label packaging.
The IPIA label is the only way consumers can be assured the ice they are buying is safe to consume. The University of Georgia study compared ice produced and packaged by outside vending machines and on-premises retail establishments to ice produced by manufacturing companies that conform to quality manufacturing standards set by the IPIA. The results clearly show that consumers need to be conscious of the ice they are buying for themselves and their families.
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