Playing It Safe With Packaged Ice

How to safeguard against contamination

bags of ice

Brought to you by the International Packaged Ice Association.

Backyard barbecues, birthday parties and picnics all have one thing in common, though it’s often taken for granted: bags of ice to keep drinks refreshing and delicious food at a safe, preferred temperature.

However, few convenience retailers think of how their ice has been sanitarily manufactured and handled prior to purchasing—just as with other food and drinks, ice can be contaminated before it’s purchased, which can lead to foodborne diseases. Luckily, there are ways for retailers to safeguard against this and ensure that the ice offered at their c-stores is clean and safe.

What’s the risk?

Although the Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture have strict oversight on the food and beverage industry to decrease illnesses stemming from food and drugs, the ice industry has no industry specific federal regulations. A cluster of myths surrounding ice safety persist, too, such as the idea that alcohol in iced beverages will kill any bacteria or that the freezing process itself kills anything that might be harmful in the water.

It’s not exactly something to brush off, either, given a study completed by researchers at the University of Georgia. The study examined packaged ice at a variety of retailers, including convenience stores, liquor stores, fast-food restaurants and gas stations, plus non-packaged ice at self-serve vending machines. More than 25% of ice samples were found to have unsatisfactory levels of contamination; however, the ice manufactured by members of the International Packaged Ice Association (IPIA) was good to go—no harmful bacteria detected.

While the International Packaged Ice Association (IPIA) requires its members to follow strict safety guidelines in the manufacturing process, the research suggests that not non-members don’t always have the same diligence.

Keeping ice safe with quality standards

Most consumers would likely agree that they want their ice to be void of bacteria, chemical contamination and foreign objects—and that doesn’t seem like too much to ask, right? Although it was more than 90 years ago when the c-store industry was born in Dallas, Texas, with the Southland Ice Company, it was just over 20 years ago that someone—in this case, the IPIA—took a strong interest in protecting people from ice contamination by creating the Packaged Ice Quality Control Standards (PIQCS).

. The Control Standards ensure sanitation training for employees, sanitary operations for the facility, equipment and utensils, pest control, quality control of the water source, continuous microbiological testing when the ice is finished and packaging that meets federal labeling laws and food grade standards. Annual 3rd party PIQCS audits of members’ manufacturing plants are conducted by NSF International.

Benefits of purchasing IPIA-certified ice

Beyond substantially reducing the concerns about food safety, there’s other benefits for an operator to go with an IPIA member when purchasing packaged ice, such as a higher return on investment and managed cost and profits. Additionally, providing safe, clean food products goes a long way in building customer trust, a vital aspect of running a successful retail foodservice operation.

Ensuring customers have confidence in the products sold at c-stores is easy with IPIA-certified ice. Keep the party going longer with clean ice from members of the International Packaged Ice Association. Look for the Label.