Ice, Ice, Safety

(Sorry, thiceat was a little bit corny!)

Do you ever think of ice as a food product? We often think of ice as a way to keep food cold or to cool food down . . . but that ice in your water, soda or tea and the ice some people like to crunch on is consumed as food. That means it needs to be handled safely, just like any other food.

Whether you have your own icemaker, individual ice trays in the freezer or buy bagged ice, how that ice is handled can lead to or help prevent a food borne illness. The packaged ice industry is regulated by state and local authorities, but once you buy it, it’s up to you to keep it safe.

The fact that ice is frozen does not prevent it from carrying or transferring viruses and bacteria. The temperature is also not low enough to kill these microorganisms.

Let’s examine three common behaviors with ice . . .

  • Taking ice from a cooler of bottled/canned beverages to put in your drink.
  • Picking up ice from the ice bucket or bin with your hands.
  • Dropping bags of ice on the ground to break them up.

Do you think these are safe? I’m really hoping you said they are ­not safe. Using your hands to scoop ice from an ice bucket or bin is like touching the ice that will go in everyone else’s cup or them touching the ice that is going in your cup. Taking ice from a cooler for in your drink is also a bad idea because you don’t know what was on the outside of those beverage containers – they may have been stored in someone’s garage or basement and be dirty (or worse). Let’s not even think about what might be on the ground that could get on the ice that you’re about to pour into your cooler.

So what can you do? A few simple changes can turn your picnic from Ewwwww! To Weeeeeeeeee!

Safe Handling Tips:

  • Handle ice with clean, non-breakable utensils, such as tongs or an ice scoop with a handle.
  • Avoid touching ice with your hands.
  • Avoid scooping ice with cups or glassware (risk of chipping glassware and hand contact with ice).
  • Store ice in clean food safe containers that are safe for storing food.
  • When picnicking, keep a separate zipper bag or container of ice just for use in beverages.
  • When handling bagged ice, use a clean ice pick, spatula or meat mallet to break it into smaller chunks.

Source: US Food & Drug Administration. FDA Regulates the Safety of Packaged Ice. http://www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/ucm197586.htm

Written by: Kate Shumaker, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension Holmes County

Reviewed by: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension Ross County

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