You May Want To Rethink Getting Ice At A Fast Food Restuarant For This Gross Reason

Water might be the most frequently consumed beverage at restaurants. Even if you didn't specifically order one, chances are it'll appear in front of you anyway. But did you know the ice in your restaurant drink could be dirtier than the water in many toilets? Several studies found restaurant ice can be filthy and contaminated with dangerous bacteria, according to The list of contaminants includes E. coli, Salmonella, Listeria, and coliform bacteria. And if that's not enough, add mold to the list.

Dirty ice is no doubt gross but it can also make you sick. In 2013, ice at a golf course in Arizona caused a norovirus outbreak that sickened over 80 people, according to Newsweek. And in San Diego in 2016, county officials said they believed contaminated ice sickened 60 people at a restaurant, according to the Times of San Diego.

While humans might not thrive in freezing temperatures, bacteria and mold do just fine.

A chilling public health issue

A 2021 TikTok video shows just how disgusting some ice machines really are. The video shows a brown substance floating in an ice machine's water and growing on the sides of the machine. The user @jantheman____ says "A lot of times people go to a restaurant, they get sick, and they think it's food poisoning, or their food made them sick," and adds "Let me tell you this, there's a chance that it was their ice that got you sick" (via Newsweek).

While the gross visuals are enough to make you put down your drink, studies in the U.S., the U.K., and China confirm high levels of bacterial contamination and mold have been found in ice from ice machines, according to Dr. David Katz told ABC News ice can be dirtier than toilet water because machines aren't cleaned, and people don't always wash their hands before scooping ice.

Dirtier than toilet water

A 7th-grader from Florida played a role in exposing the dirty truth about restaurant ice in her community. For her middle school science project in 2006, Jasmine Roberts tested the cleanliness of fast-food restaurant ice, according to ABCNews. Roberts collected ice samples from self-serve ice machines and drive-through windows at five restaurants. Then she collected samples of toilet water from the same locations. The University of South Florida conducted the tests.

70 percent of the time, results of the tests revealed that  ice from fast food restaurants was dirtier than toilet water, according to ABCNews. Several times, the ice tested positive for E. coli, a type of bacteria found in human waste. While usually harmless, E. coli can cause bloody diarrhea, severe stomach cramps, and vomiting, and in rare cases lead to kidney failure, according to the MayoClinic. As a result of the study, two of the restaurants involved made changes to the way they cleaned their machines, according to ABC News.

Public health officials recommend regular and proper cleaning to keep ice machines safe. But since you don't know about the cleanliness of the ice machine that made the ice in your drink, perhaps you should follow the advice of one bartender who told Business Insider to just drink wine or beer instead.