Photo: Mackenzie Stroh
Q: Is store-bought ice made with clean, safe water?
— Ruth Arnold, New York City
A: Not necessarily. There are no federal and very few state regulations specific to ice production. And because ice is so easy to manufacture (easier than just about anything else we consume), mom-and-pop operations abound. Ice sold in labeled bags, packaged at a large, high-volume facility, is much more likely to meet higher standards (such as those set by the International Packaged Ice Association). Ice sold in unlabeled bags is generally made and packaged on-site, and the hygiene standards involved in the process are anybody's guess. Ice has been identified as a potential source of pathogens (one report of fast-food restaurants showed the ice used in soft drinks to be more contaminated than toilet water). There is, however, some reassuring news. While freezers don't reliably kill germs, they're certainly not a good place for them to grow—meaning ice is a relatively poor delivery vehicle for infectious agents like salmonella.
David L. Katz, MD, is director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center and president of the nonprofit Turn the Tide Foundation.