Is Packaged Ice Safe? The Dangers in Packaged Ice

Is Packaged Ice Safe?

Packaged ice is the kind one picks up in the grocery store, the convenience store or mass market store on the way to the good times. Packaged ice may be shaved, cubed, nuggeted, or crushed.  It may be made from tap water, spring water, or purified water.  But no matter what the shape or the source, ice is considered a food by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). If it is made in one state and sold In another, packaged ice is regulated, as a food. FDA rules require that packaged ice must be produced with properly cleaned and maintained equipment from water that is safe and sanitary and that it is stored and transported in clean and sanitary conditions.

This seemingly innocent product can carry salmonella, E. coli, and many other dangerous things if it hasn’t been produced and stored properly. And this can lead to a number of illnesses, especially in the very young or very old, or those who already have a comprised immune system.

According to the National Center for Disease Control, “ice may become contaminated from the use of impure water, contamination of ice making machines, or from improper storage or handling of ice.”

Since freezing does not kill bacteria or viruses, it is imperative that the ice one uses in their drinks or near their food, be safe.

The Dangers in Packaged Ice

According to the International Packaged Ice Association, Americans eat more ice than bread. And 80% of the packaged ice is bought between Memorial Day and Labor Day. And there is very little, if any, inspection or government oversight of all packaged ice producers in this country. The International Packaged ice Association has set standards for ice safety. It’s a non-profit association that represents ice producers. The Association has some tips to help keep you and your family safe.

  • Make sure the ice package is sealed properly. Drawstring ties are not a good seal for this product.
  • Ice from outside vending machines may not be safe.
  • The ice should be “clear, odorless and tasteless”.
  • Check the ice before consuming for foreign objects or particles.
  • Make sure the bag has the manufacturer’s name, address, and phone number.
  • Avoid cross-contamination. If ice touches raw meat, it can become contaminated and can spread bacteria to other foods.

What Are Ways Package Ice Can Become Dirty?

Most people believe that because ice makers are naturally cold since they make ice, they cannot have bacteria or germs grow in them. It is a misconception many people have about the science of how bacteria and germs can grow.

Now that you realize this, it is essential you are aware of what makes package ice dirty and what to try to avoid so your ice may stay clean.

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Here’s a list of what can cause your ice maker to get dirty, leading to bacteria, then causing people to become sick or ill:

  • Not changing the water frequently enough
  • Dirty hands
  • Dirty water can also freeze up and then become ice that people are using
  • Not removing the older ice
  • Not cleaning the insides of the machine

What Are The Risks Involved With Your Package Ice Being Dirty?

Dirty ice can affect up to thousands of people

  • coli and norovirus are a few of the illnesses people can become ill with.
  • One study in Chicago in 2007 conducted in December took 50 restaurant and hotel bar samples of ice. This study found that 1/5 of the institutions had dirty ice that was contaminated with fecal matter.
  • Plastic tubing in ice makers and soda machines have sugar and other fluids clog and build up in there. They can make it easier for pathogens to live and if they are ingested a person may get sick due to lack of proper cleaning.
  • Not as dire or harmful, but still a risk is the possibility of your ice maker breaking down. Just like any other appliance, once it gets too dirty it can break down momentarily or permanently because of all the buildup or rust it may cause.


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