Ice Ice Microbe Baby

Alright, stop! Collaborate and listen.

Did you know there is an association for packaged ice? Yeah, I didn’t either. In November the International Packaged Ice Association (IPIA) will be holding their 99th annual convention, so if you’re in the San Antonio area around then you probably won’t want to miss that!

Did you also know that ice is defined as a food by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and is required to have fewer than 500 microbial colonies per milliliter of thawed ice to be considered safe?

According to IPIA, which sets ice handling standards, approximately two billion bags of ice are sold every year in the United States. There are also 700 commercial ice-making companies, however 200 of those companies are not represented by the IPIA and do not necessarily comply with the specific packaged ice processing standards.

The IPIA recently sponsored research on the thresholds of bacterial contamination of ice throughout Southern California; packaged ice samples were collected from gas stations, liquor stores, and convenient stores.

132 non-IPIA complied samples were analyzed:
15 samples were found to have unsatisfactory levels of heterotrophs (organisms that can’t fix carbon and simply use it for growth; humans are heterotrophs).
41 samples contained unsatisfactory levels of coliforms (bacteria found in digestive tracts of animals/humans, plants, and soil; commonly used as indicator of sanitary quality of foods/water).
19 samples contained staphylococci (the bacteria responsible for Staph infections).
70 samples were found to have mold/yeast.

24 IPIA complied samples were analyzed, and none had unacceptable microbial levels.

None of the samples analyzed, non-IPIA complied or otherwise, were found to have Salmonella. This research provides evidence against the somewhat-popular belief that freezing kills bacteria; like many other foods, ice that isn’t handled properly could contain any of the bacteria or pathogens mentioned above, or even E. Coli.

As the summer progresses, be smart about your ice! Tips for buying ice include:
The package of ice must carry the IPIA logo
The bag must be properly closed and secure without drawstring ties
Ice should be clear, odorless, and tasteless
The bag should have a product code for traceability
The bag must be free of any foreign objects or particles
The bag must have the manufacturer’s name, address and phone number

Word to your mother!

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