Think twice before you sip fruit juice served with crushed ice or ice cubes from wayside eateries and hotels. Consumption of ice manufactured, transported and used in unhygienic conditions could pose serious health hazards, warned public health experts.

Despite the increase in the use of ice cubes and crushed ice in beverages during summer, the city does not have in place an effective mechanism to ensure its quality. Ice samples meant for use in retail shops and eateries have not been sent for quality analysis to laboratories of the Central Institute of Fisheries Technology and the Council for Food Research Development, Konni — the two government agencies equipped to conduct quality tests.

The Regional Analytical Laboratory, Kakkanad, is carrying out quality analysis on 20 samples.

Meanwhile, health officials of the Kochi Corporation seized three ice blocks and 100 kg ice found unfit for consumption from four city traders on Thursday, according to a communication from the civic body.

The drive against the use of contaminated ice and selling of sherbet would continue, said T.K. Ashraf, chairman of the Health Standing Committee of the Kochi Corporation.

According to Biju Prabhakar, State Food Safety Commissioner, inspecting ice samples used in all wayside shops would not be an easy task.

He said the department was presently focusing on the quality of drinking water transported in bulk quantities, and would later turn its attention on the quality of ice.

M.K. Mukundan, director, Council for Food Research Development, said all retail shops using ice were expected to keep certificates issued by the ice manufacturing company from where it was procured. Quality guidelines have been laid down for the water to be used for making ice, its transportation and handling. As per law, ice should be handled only in hygienic conditions and sanitary surfaces. The total bacterial load of the contact surface where the ice is kept should be below 100 colony-forming units (CFU) per sq.cm. The contact surfaces and the vehicles used for transporting ice should be cleaned regularly, he said.

Use of contaminated ice could lead to diseases like dysentery, typhoid and cholera.

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