Food Safety Focus (87th Issue, October 2013) – Food Incident Highlight
Coliforms in Edible Ice
Recently, a study conducted by the media detected coliforms from edible ice samples obtained from local food premises and has raised concerns.
Coliforms are a group of closely related, mostly harmless bacteria commonly found throughout the environment in soils, water, guts of warmblooded animals and on plants. Since coliforms are present in higher numbers and are easier to detect than pathogens, they are commonly used as a hygienic indicator for food and water. While high level of coliforms generally indicates unsanitary condition or poor hygiene practices during or after food production, their detection does not necessarily mean that pathogens are present or reflect possible faecal contamination.
The Centre for Food Safety has been monitoring the microbiological quality, including E. coli count in edible ice. The detection of E. coli, which is a better indicator than coliforms, indicates possible faecal contamination and a risk that pathogens may be present. From 2010 to 2012, 120 edible ice samples were tested and all results were satisfactory. Traders are advised to follow the Guidelines on Hygienic Production and Handling of Ice in Food Premises and observe good hygiene practices when handling ice.