Hold the ice: Tests on ice, ice machines and utensils carried out at 88 establishments found that 30 per cent showed evidence of poor hygiene
Dirty ice is being served at almost one in three pubs, restaurants and coffee shops, putting customers’ health at risk, a study suggests. Bacteria found on hands, including some associated with failing to wash properly after visiting the toilet, have been found by experts from the Health Protection Agency.
Tests on ice, ice machines and utensils carried out at 88 establishments found that 30 per cent showed evidence of poor hygiene.
Details were published after a recent report revealed that the number of people experiencing tummy upsets has surged by 50 per cent compared with the 1990s. Some 17million cases occur each year, caused by a variety of sources, leading to 11million lost working days.
The major problem with ice involved a failure to clean machines and scoops used by staff to fill glasses and cups.
The HPA said: ‘Thirty per cent – 42 – of the ice samples were found to have unsatisfactory levels of coliform bacteria. ‘Of these, three samples were also found to have unsatisfactory levels of Enterococci and one sample had an unsatisfactory level of E.coli.
‘Both Enterococci and E.coli can be found in the gastrointestinal tract of humans and animals and may be an indication of faecal contamination.’
Tests were carried out at businesses across Yorkshire and the Humber region and in the East Midlands.
Research in the U.S. has also found that ice machines in fast-food restaurants and cafes used by customers, rather than those operated by staff, are particularly likely to be contaminated.
The HPA said: ‘Poor hygiene practices when preparing ice could create the opportunity for harmful bacteria to contaminate our food and drinks.’
Judith Tapper, of the HPA’s Food, Water and Environmental laboratory in Leeds, said: ‘The main way to ensure that ice is fit to use in food and drink is to ensure that it comes from a safe drinking water source and that all machines and utensils or scoops are cleaned thoroughly and regularly.
‘Proprietors should also ensure that ice water is fresh and not left in machines or buckets for long periods of time. We should remember that water can become stagnant after a while and the same applies to ice.
‘Half of swabs taken from inside ice machines or ice scoops were also considered unsatisfactory when tested.’
Dr John Piggott, manager of the HPA laboratory, said: ‘The results could be an indication that businesses aren’t using the same good practices when preparing ice that they are using when preparing other food and drink.
‘As ice is essentially water, some may have the misconception that strict cleaning procedures do not need to be applied to ice-making equipment, but our study shows this is not the case.’