The 'dirty' little secret about ice machines at restaurants
If you care about the safety of the food you eat, experts say you should also pay attention to the things you drink. The ice in your glass might be the most transparent part of your meal, but it is just as likely as anything to make you sick. “The same risk you can get from food, salmonella, E.coli, any of those pathogens can also be found on ice,” stated Sherri Woodus, Retail Food Section Chief for the Arkansas Department of Health. “Most people think that, because ice is cold, that it will cause those pathogens to die off. It doesn’t.”
Mold and biofilm can develop if ice machines are not properly maintained. Woodus said most machines need professional cleanings twice a year. A study conducted in Las Vegas in 2011 showed that approximately one-third of commercial ice machines were breeding grounds for dangerous bacteria, and more than 70 percent contained indicators that bacteria could be present... Aside from mold, ice often becomes contaminated by careless workers. Dirty hands can contaminate ice in a number of ways. Some food service workers, McAllen said, use their hands to pick ice out of the machine. But secondary transfer is also a concern.
When is the last time you cleaned your ice maker?
You already know that a clean refrigerator is important to keep your family healthy, but you may be at a loss as to how to clean the ice maker and water dispenser. A recent study by the public health organization NSF identified this as one of the most contaminated items in the kitchen. Besides making you sick, a contaminated or dirty icemaker can result in several unpleasant consequences.
Dirty ice can be milky, cloudy or emit a foul odor. It may begin to clump together and cause your beverages to have a bad flavor. In addition to these warning signs, you may notice that the icemaker is producing ice more slowly or that the flow of water through the door is impeded or restricted. The most common ice dispenser problems are mold and yeast growth. These contaminants can exacerbate allergies and cause a variety of health problems ranging from digestive to respiratory ills.
High Levels of Bacteria from Feces Found in Ice at KFC
The Telegraph: "Undercover investigators for BBC's Rip Off Britain found the contaminated ice while visiting several big-name takeaways and coffee shops. Dr Margarita Gomez Escalada, who studied the sample at Leeds Beckett University, told the programme: 'We found high levels of bacteria in the ice. The presence of faecal coliform suggests that there's faecal contamination either on the water that made the ice, or the ice itself, and so it increases the risk of getting sick from consuming this ice.' KFC said it was extremely disappointed and had launched an investigation into food hygiene at its Martineau Place branch in Birmingham."
Study Finds E. Coli in Ice Cubes
Barf Blog: "More than a quarter of ice cubes used in Swiss bars and restaurants contain fecal bacteria such as E. coli, according to a nationwide study by the Swiss cantonal chemists association (VKCS). In an analysis of ice cube samples collected from bars, restaurants and canteens around Switzerland last year, 26 percent fell short of legal health standards, said Sunday paper SonntagsBlick, which released the figure prior to the report’s official publication. The presence of bacteria including pseudomonas, E. coli and enterococci is “a clear sign of unsanitary production of ice cubes,” Otmar Deflorin, president of the cantonal chemists association and head of the Swiss federal laboratory in Bern, told SonntagsBlick."
Contaminated Ice Linked to San Diego Norovirus Outbreak
Times of San Diego: "Two months after a norovirus outbreak at Bali Hai restaurant, county health officials have fingered ice as the foodborne source that sickened at least 61 people — including three in a wedding party... In its final report to the San Diego SPJ, the county said 84 of the 172 people at the July 29 banquet returned surveys on what they ate and other issues. Fifty were sickened by the norovirus type GI.1. (Eight others also reported getting ill.)... [County Spokesman Michael Workman said someone — an employee or not — could have contaminated an ice scoop, which led to the spread of the highly contagious pathogen. It has been identified in at least 37 illness outbreaks this year in San Diego County."
Barf Blog: 4 Ice Safety Steps for Restaurants, Bars, and Hotels
Barf Blog: "During my career as a Health Inspector, one question often asked by the public is 'How safe is the ice in food and drinks serve in restaurants?' There is no easy Yes or No answer without having to explain how ice can be contaminated and in what conditions that ice can cause illness. In general, we tend to view ice much the same way we do with drinking water coming out from the tap, and assume that both water and ice are 'clean.' Ice must be treated like food, as both can be a source of foodborne illness if not handled safely."
ABC News: Bacteria Found in Ice at Several Restaurants
An ABC News affiliate in Salt Lake City, Utah, finds that many restaurant owners are unaware of the amount of bacteria and fungus in their ice machines, and are unaware that the freezing process does not eliminate the bacteria from the water. Further, even when confronted with evidence that their ice may by contaminated, some business owners refused to change their habits to improve the safety of the ice they serve.
Robert Irvine: 'Ice is Very, Very Dangerous'
According to celebrity chef and 'Restaurant: Impossible' host Robert Irvine, unsanitary ice machines pose one of the most significant threats in consumer food safety. In an interview with Total Food Service, Irvine explains that "by going into these places and actually seeing the state of what the ice machines look like, I can tell you how clean and safe the whole operation is. I've seen everything that could possibly happen to an ice machine, cockroaches in it, bacteria in it, even mold growing in the ice cubes. And it's something that nobody ever thinks about, but we put it into drinks. We feed children, old people, young people with it."
Irvine goes on to explain that "sickness has no boundaries. And what I've seen is that ice machines are very dangerous if they're not handled correctly. Because it only takes one person to ingest mold and tragically die. And if they're 80 years old or 12 years old and they get sick, they could die. I use that all the time on my show, Restaurant: Impossible. Ice is very, very dangerous."
CBS News: 40 Percent of Los Angeles Restaurants Serve Dirty Ice
A new report from a CBS News affiliate in Los Angeles finds that 4 in 10 California restaurants that received A Grades from local health inspectors demonstrated to have dirty ice machines. If left untreated, ice machines quickly become contaminated with organic material such as mold, dirt, and slime.
Washington Post: Harmful Bacteria Found in Suburban Water Source
The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission has lifted a boil-water order for about 100,000 people in Prince George’s County. Water testing in the area found no signs of harmful bacteria after a 24-inch water main broke in Hyattsville earlier this week, according to a commission press release.
NBC: Your Ice Could Be Dirty
NBC News: "We took our hidden camera to a dozen food service locations across Connecticut, including fast-food joints, mall eateries and restaurants. Right away, we saw employees at the Wendy's in West Hartford dredging drink cups through the ice with their bare hands."
"The next thing we found was even more disturbing. Our camera caught employees touching the ice with their bare hands. Minutes earlier, another employee placed the bucket of ice on the floor, uncovered. Dupont said it's poor practice."
ABC News: Fast-Food Ice Dirtier Than Toilet Water
ABC News: "Jasmine Roberts never expected her award-winning middle school science project to get so much attention. But the project produced some disturbing results: 70 percent of the time, ice from fast food restaurants was dirtier than toilet water."
"The 12-year-old collected ice samples from five restaurants in South Florida -- from both self-serve machines inside the restaurant and from drive-thru windows. She then collected toilet water samples from the same restaurants and tested all of them for bacteria at the University of South Florida. In several cases, the ice tested positive for E. coli bacteria, which comes from human waste and has been linked to several illness outbreaks across the country."
Fox News: Dirty Ice Machine Blamed for Sickening Newlyweds, 70 Guests at Wedding
Fox News: "State investigators say an ill bartender and a contaminated ice machine sickened two newlyweds and about 70 guests who attended a wedding reception at a volunteer fire company hall in western Pennsylvania. Investigators from the state health and agriculture departments blamed the illnesses on the norovirus, a common illness that causes vomiting, nausea and diarrhea."
"Investigators say they found black residue and pink slime in the ice machine at the the Stockdale Volunteer Fire Company in Washington County where the reception was held Oct. 11. They say the bartender at the event was also ill at the time. The ice machine has been sanitized."
Dateline: Dirty Ice Can Make You Sick
Dateline: "For days, Scott Beeman had no idea why his son died... but then, a clue: He’d played in a junior golf tournament that day, and dozens of others young golfers also got sick. [...] Health officials traced a gastrointestinal illness to coolers containing drinking water for the golfers."
"That something was Norovirus. Officials believe a a sick employee who had not washed his hands contaminated the ice in the coolers. It’s the food no one thinks of as, well, food. And if contaminated food can make you sick, can ice do the same?"
"We took our hidden cameras to 20 food service locations: fast food places, mall eateries, hotel restaurants and stadium vendors. We collected ice samples from each place for testing. And as we ordered our drinks, we carefully observed how employees actually handle ice. [...] And that made the next thing we noticed a little more disturbing: employees who handle ice touch everything around the service counter, including money — which means they could possibly contaminate the scoop and anything else they touch."
ABC News: How Dirty is Your Ice?
ABC News: "But we found out in our ABC 4 undercover investigation that the ice you're eating can be downright dirty. We randomly picked several Salt Lake Valley restaurants and one ice company that claims its ice is pure. We collected a cup of ice from most and a bag of ice from Summit Ice. We marked and sealed the samples according to procedures given us by the lab and then the testing began."
"Summit Ice takes precautions to keep their ice clean. No humans touch the ice. They use stainless steal, and they practice food handling standards when making ice. Their lab results confirmed their prediction. Both of their samples for bacteria and fungus came out clean. But we can't say the same for the other businesses in our investigation..."
Daily Mail: Chilling Truth About the Ice in Your Drink
Daily Mail: "Dirty ice is being served at almost one in three pubs, restaurants and coffee shops, putting customers’ health at risk, a study suggests. Bacteria found on hands, including some associated with failing to wash properly after visiting the toilet, have been found by experts from the Health Protection Agency."
"Tests on ice, ice machines and utensils carried out at 88 establishments found that 30 per cent showed evidence of poor hygiene. Details were published after a recent report revealed that the number of people experiencing tummy upsets has surged by 50 percent compared with the 1990s. Some 17 million cases occur each year, caused by a variety of sources, leading to 11 million lost working days."