Is Your Ice Safe?
By Howard Seltzer, National Education Advisor, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, FDA
On average, American consumers buy four bags of packaged ice each year - not surprisingly, 80 percent of it between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
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.
To make sure you handle packaged ice safely, treat it like it's a food:
- Use clean, non-breakable utensils to handle ice, such as tongs or an ice scoop
- Avoid touching ice with dirty hands or glasses
- Store ice only in clean containers that are safe for storing food
- Raw foods that will be packed with loose ice in a cooler should be wrapped securely to prevent water from the melting ice from cross-contaminating the foods in the cooler -- for example, carrying juices from raw meat to vegetables
- Put a separate bag of ice in a cooler to use in drinks. Don't use loose ice from a cooler full of raw foods
If you plan to pour packaged ice into a tub or sink for guests to use in their drinks:
- First wash the receptacle thoroughly with a mixture of one teaspoon of unscented liquid bleach to a quart of water
- Rinse with clean water
- Let it air-dry or pat dry with fresh paper towels
- Be sure to have several scoops, tongs, or other utensils handy with which your guests can pick up ice without touching it with their hands
When the Power Goes Out
A refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours and a full freezer for about 48 hours if they are not opened. If the power is out for a prolonged period, the best bet to keep food cold in the refrigerator or freezer is dry ice, if you can find it. If you can't, block ice or packaged ice are useful alternatives, but ice will melt, so put them in water-tight receptacles or wrap them in an Intact plastic bag (packaged Ice bags often develop leaks from handling) so that they won't make a mess as they melt.