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Contaminated Ice

(credit: Stan Honda/Getty Images)

(credit: Stan Honda/Getty Images)

feldman_amy Amy Feldman
Amy E. Feldman is a business commentator and legal business...
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By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - You keep your food on ice to keep the food from going bad. But what keeps the ice from going bad?

A recent study of restaurants in the United Kingdom found that samples of ice at six out of ten chain restaurants contained more bacteria than samples of toilet water. Don’t worry, that could never happen at restaurants here. Or backyard barbeques. In fact, of all your worries at your backyard barbeque, I’ll bet keeping the ice from being contaminated doesn’t even make your list.

According to the US Food and Drug Administration, the average household buys four bags of packaged ice each year, 80% of it right now – between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The FDA inspects packaged ice manufacturing plants to make sure that the water is safe and sanitary and that the plumbing prevents contamination. And the labels must list the name and place of business of the manufacturer, packer, or distributor of the ice.

But, by far the biggest cause of contamination comes from the hands of those who stick their fingers in the cooler and spread germs to everyone else whose food or drink comes into contact. So, keep ice tongs next to the ice to keep fingers out of it, and consider keeping a bottle of hand sanitizer next to the ice bucket at the party.