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Chinese & US ice dirtier than toilet water Print

A recent expose on Chinese television showed some ice samples to be more contaminated with toilet water, U.S. ice could be just as nasty. Why do ice machines often go uncleaned?

Ice machines can easily become one of the most neglected appliances in any restaurant, a transmitter for grime and bacteria into your drink. In a program on China Central Television (CCTV), reporters found three ice samples that failed to meet China's standards for bacteria in drinking water, with two of them even dirtier than toilet water.

The reporters found that ice from a KFC in the Chongwenmen district of Beijing had contamination levels that were 12 times higher than toilet water and 19 times higher than China's standard for drinking water of 100 colony-forming units (CFU) of bacteria, the Huffington Post reported.

A branch of the Chinese fast-food restaurant Kongfu also had ice with bacteria levels six times higher than toilet water, while a McDonald's branch had ice that was cleaner than toilet water, but still more bacteria-laden than the national standard. All three chains issued apologies.

Dirty ice, which comes from moldy ice machines, is surprisingly common. Last month, the Daily Mail analyzed 10 fast food restaurants' ice, including at McDonald's, Burger King, KFC, and Starbucks. They found that six of the restaurants had CFUs higher than that of their toilet water, with four of them having enough microbes to be considered a "hygiene risk."

Contaminated ice isn't a stranger to the U.S. either. In 2006, 12-year-old Jasmine Roberts collected ice samples from five South Florida restaurants, and found that 70 percent of them were dirtier than the toilet water. Roberts, who collected the samples for a science project, even found E. coli in some cases.

E. coli bacteria, which are normally found in the intestines of people and animals, can cause illnesses when transmitted through contaminated food or water, including urinary tract infections, diarrhea, respiratory illnesses, and pneumonia.

"This is a warning," Dr. Melody Greenwood, former laboratory director for the Health Protection Agency, told the Daily Mail. "It is easy to forget ice can carry bacteria because they think it is too cold for germs, but that is far from the truth. Nasty bugs such as E. coli can lurk in ice machines."

"This is caused by things such as a failure to clean machines and scoops used by staff."
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