E.Coli or Escherichia coli is a bacteria found in the environment, foods and the digestive tract of humans and animals. Although many E.Coli strains will not have any health impacts, there are others that can make you very sick. E.Coli has been known to cause diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, urinary tract infections, respiratory illnesses, and even pneumonia. Unfortunately, according to the CDC, it can be difficult to trace where an E.Coli infection is from as there are a number of potential sources. While most people understand E.Coli can contaminate foods, they may not be aware that ice also has the potential to be contaminated.
Will Freezing Temperatures Provide Protection?
For many foods, cooking can kill bacteria including E.Coli. The heat can kill the bacteria and E.Coli will be destroyed when it reaches 160ºF. Unfortunately, when you are dealing with fresh produce such as greens or ice, the process of destroying the E.Coli is far more challenging. Many people assume that washing vegetables can kill E.Coli, but in fact, you need to cook your greens until they have been fully wilted, to ensure they are safe.
While it is easy to assume that freezing temperatures will provide enough protection against E.Coli issues in ice, nothing is further from the truth. The ice from gas stations, vending machines and restaurants could be contaminated. The only way to ensure protection is to ensure that the ice machine is regularly cleaned.
Unfortunately, there are no guarantees to prevent E.Coli as it is not detectable by the human eye. E.Coli bacteria does not affect the taste, smell or appearance of ice, so it is impossible to determine if ice is contaminated or not. Before you think that you’ll never be able to enjoy an icy drink again, there are some ways that you can protect yourself.
- Don’t Use a Dirty Ice Machine: The first and most important step is to never use any ice from an ice machine that appears to be dirty or showing signs of improper maintenance. You are at a higher risk of E.Coli if the machine producing ice is unsanitary.
- Avoid High Risk Items: There are some foods that are high risk for E.Coli, including undercooked meat, unpasteurized milk, and juice that should be avoided.
- Wash Your Hands: Before you prepare or eat food, you should ensure that your hands are thoroughly washed. This is particularly important if you’ve changed an infant’s diaper or had contact with animals.
While it is important to know E.Coli can contaminate food, drinks, and ice; there is little that can be done to prevent an infection. The only sure way is to avoid high risk foods, so before you order ice in your drink in a new restaurant or gas station, be sure to have a quick look to see if everything looks clean and sanitary.
If you suspect you have been exposed to E.Coli, you should seek immediate medical attention for an appropriate treatment schedule.