Think Twice Before Getting Ice In Your Drink. Here's Why

When ordering at a restaurant, most beverages automatically come with ice. It's so commonplace that we often don't think twice about it since most of us prefer to consume our drinks cold rather than at room temperature. However, despite a restaurant's best efforts to keep their establishment clean and sanitary, ice machines can still be a breeding ground for germs.

Research conducted by ice machine manufacturing company, Ice-O-Matic, found that 40 percent of food service operators were unaware of how frequently ice machine equipment should be cleaned (via Food Service Equipment Journal). This is troublesome for customers who may be unaware that they're ingesting dirty ice that has the potential to be contaminated with bacteria. Contamination sources can be traced to natural buildup within the machine itself or from the outside environment (via Hygiene Food Safety). One exterior example is the utensil used to scoop the ice. The risk of contamination increases with the more surfaces the scooper touches, including our hands. Therefore, keeping it soaking in a mild cleaner is a safer alternative than leaving it sitting in the ice itself.

Bacteria can stay preserved in ice which can lead to illness when ingested

Alternatively, internal contamination can take place as well. Bacteria can be preserved in the ice which then thaws into the beverage (via HydroFlow USA). Ice machines can serve as a cozy incubator for microorganisms due to the pumps on the water lines which drive refrigerant into the machine to keep it cool. Therefore, regular cleanings are massively important to prevent severe illness from salmonella or hepatitis infections (via NBC News).

Food safety consulting agency, Hygiene Food Safety, provides general cleaning guidelines to food establishments such as using sanitizer rather than chemicals to clean ice machines since this too can contaminate the ice. In addition, they advise paying special attention to areas particularly prone to bacteria or dirt such as the drainage system or air filter. They also suggest running machine parts through a dishwasher using a hot temperature to kill any existing germs. When it comes to our health, it's important for restaurant patrons to make an informed decision as to whether or not to forgo the ice altogether. Equally as important, food establishments should make every effort to consistently follow health and safety protocols for both themselves and others.