You can probably imagine ordering water without ice at your favorite brunch spot, and maybe an orange juice, too. But what’s a cold coffee sans ice cubes? Is a frozen margarita truly a margarita at all without it? And, could you forgive your frozen piña colada if it wasn’t actually frozen?
Mind-blowing, we know. But there are good reasons to make sure that your favorite drinks are iceless, at least when you order them at a restaurant. We, for example, can pretty much guarantee that the 154 souls who attended a Christmas buffet in 2016 and came down with gastrointestinal illness after sipping on icy drinks now think twice before indulging (via Epidemiology and Infection). After talking to food safety expert Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, FAND, we at The List, will too. Amidor is an award-winning nutrition expert and author of the best-selling The Best 3-Ingredient Cookbook. Suffice to say that Amidor knows a thing or two about what’s safe to eat.
And ice in drinks at restaurants? The idea was enough to sound her alarm bells. “There have been issues when food service operations (like restaurants) don’t clean and sanitize their ice machine regularly,” Amidor explained to The List, “This causes debris and slime to develop and harmful microorganisms to grow. This can lead to dirty and contaminated ice being put into beverages that can potentially get you sick. “
How to minimize risk when ordering icy drinks at restaurants
If you have your heart set on ordering a drink that requires ice at a public food venue, there is a way to minimize risks to your health. “Your best bet is to inquire about how often that ice machine is cleaned and sanitized … before ordering your drink with ice,” Amidor advised. If a restaurant can’t offer up that information? Maybe play it safe and go without.
Finally, the ice in your drink isn’t just a potential safety issue when you’re out and about. Even when you’re at home, you should practice proper ice safety. “From a food safety perspective, ice is considered a food item and should be handled with clean hands and utensils,” Amidor admonished. “When you scoop ice, a clean and sanitary ice scoop should be used.” Whatever you do, never accept an icy drink if “someone is scooping the ice with their hands,” warned Amidor. “That is a no-no and that ice should not be consumed.”
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