The quality of packaged ice sold in retail establishments is not uniformly regulated, and its cleanliness and safety have not been recently evaluated. This investigation examined the physical, chemical, and microbiological characteristics of 18 brands of packaged ice purchased at Iowa stores. Twenty-two ice samples were melted under controlled conditions and portions were analyzed for selected analytes established as primary and secondary drinking water standards by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Only one sample exceeded a primary health standard under the Safe Drinking Water Act, and that sample contained Klebsiella pneumoniae, a member of the total coliform group of bacteria. Several samples of ice manufactured in convenience stores had heterotrophic plate counts which exceeded the recommendation (<500 CFU/ml) established by the Packaged Ice Association, and none of the manufacturers met the minimum package labeling recommendations of that organization. Ice produced in convenience stores was of consistently poorer microbiological quality than ice produced by major commercial manufacturers. While ice consumption does not represent an immediate threat to personal or public health, the potential for disease transmission exists in an industry which is voluntarily self-regulated.

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