Many people have heard of E. coli (Escherichia coli), it’s a bacteria that is found in foods, the environment and the digestive tracts of people and animals. May E. coli strains have no negative effect on human or animal health, but there are some strains that cause sickness. The health effects of E. coli are varied, but they typically include vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, respiratory distress, pneumonia, and urinary tract infections. The Central for Disease Control (CDC) has stated that it’s difficult to trace the source of an E. coli infection because there are so many potential sources. Most people understand that E. coli bacteria can cause food contamination, but they may not know that the ice in their drinks could also be contaminated.

Can a Freezing Temperature Protect Against E. coli?

When most foods are cooked, any E. coli bacteria present would be killed during the cooking process. Heat is very effective at killing bacteria, and E. coli, in particular, will be killed when the temperature hits 160ºF. But, when you’re considering fresher produce such as vegetables, leafy greens, and even ice, it’s more challenging. It’s a commonly held belief that washing veggies will kill E. coli, but this is incorrect, and it’s necessary to cook vegetables and wilt greens fully to make them safe. This is why you often hear of E. coli outbreaks occurring around salad greens and other raw foods.

It’s a widely held belief that freezing temperatures can offer adequate protection against E. coli in ice and frozen vegetables. This is not true, and the bag of ice that you pick up from a vending machine or other location could be contaminated with E. coli. The only way to protect against E. coli is to make sure that the ice machine is cleaned regularly.

What Can You Do to Protect Yourself?

There is no way to detect the presence of E. coli using your senses. You cannot see, smell or taste it in your food or ice, and it can only be detected by laboratory testing. So, there is no real way to tell if your ice is safe to use or contaminated with E. coli. Before you despair, there are three steps that you can take to protect yourself.

  • Avoid Dirty Ice Machines: Don’t even use ice from an ice machine that looks dirty or poorly maintained. Ice machines like this are far more likely to have E. coli bacteria present.
  • Always Wash Your Hands: Before you prepare drinks or food always thoroughly wash your hands and under your fingernails to kill and E. coli that could be lingering there. This is especially true if you recently changed a cats litter tray, picked up dog poop, or changed your babies diapers.
  • Avoid Risky Foods: There are certain foods, such as unpasteurized milk, undercooked meats, and raw juices that are a higher risk for E. coli contamination.

The least risky way to make ice is to do it at home using a home filtered water. A whole house water filtration system will provide you will water free from E. coli and other contaminants. Contact your local water treatment professional help and advice on the best filtration system to suit your needs.

By EcoWater Systems.
EcoWater Systems of Nebraska is the largest water treatment company in the state and is a member of Water Quality Association.