What's in your freezer? And could it make you sick?
It could be that your ice that is contaminated with bacteria, fungus, or mold.
ABC 4 News did the legwork searching for dirty ice. We had 3 willing volunteers.
“It's interesting to find out,” said Stacia Sidlow.
“I'm excited to find out if it's clean or dirty,” said Janet Leckington.
“I was hoping my ice would be cleaner than anyone else's”, said Sandra Bell.
We even tested the ice in the ABC 4 News break room, used by hundreds of employees.
The curiosity of our volunteers stems from our undercover investigation about dirty ice in local restaurants and the shocking results we found.
“So you got this machine 4 years ago and you haven't cleaned it since?” asked ABC 4 Reporter Brian Carlson. “No” answered the owner of Mo’s Place.
In May, ABC 4 News showed the owner of Mo's Place pictures of the bacteria and fungus in his ice.
The bacteria are called "pseudomonas aeruginosa" or "water bug."
According to the health department, it can make the average person sick and can potentially cause death to someone with a weakened immune system.
He'd been serving that to customers.
“I drink it more than anyone so I feel terrible about it,” said the owner of Mo’s Place.
Because of ABC 4's investigation, the owner changed his ways.
I didn't know it was a problem. I do now. It's clean and it will be consistently clean now,” said the owner.
The other worst offender from our investigation in May? European Pizza.
“You’re the manager?” asked Brian Carlson as he walked in the door. “Yes”, replied a man behind the counter. “Are you also the owner?” questioned Brian Carlson. “Yes”, replied the man.
ABC 4 showed him pictures of fungus thriving on their sample of his ice.
“This tested for fungus too numerous to count do you think that's healthy to be serving to customers?” questioned Carlson. “No, but I don't know what caused that,” said the owner.
He showed ABC 4 the ice machine but still had no answers about why his ice is dirty.
“You don't have any explanation?” questioned Brian Carlson. “No I don't,” said the owner.
That's the same answer ABC 4 heard over and over again until he kicked us out of the restaurant.
“I am done with you guys”, said the owner.
So, would we have similar results with ice machines in home freezers?
We followed the procedures given us by the lab. We bagged the samples marked with the volunteer’s names and turned it over for testing.
“It's really important to me to find out what the results are going to be”, said volunteer Sandra Bell.
As we collected Sandra’s sample she was confident about the cleanliness of her freezer.
“I've done everything I can to keep it clean so I'm hoping for the best”, said Sandra.
But there was a problem.
“This was the results from your house”, said Brian Carlson as he showed the pictures of bacteria to Sandra. “Oh my god, so, am I like the worst?” questioned Sandra. “You were the worst” replied Brian Carlson.
An estimated 2,040 bacteria colonies grew on her test plate.
“I'm so embarrassed”, said Sandra.
In comparison, one volunteer had 1 colony, the ABC 4 News plate had 2 colonies, and the next worse results besides Sandra's had 69 colonies.
“It really grosses me out”, said Sandra.
But it's not quite as bad as it sounds. Sandra's samples tested negative for e-coli, salmonella, and other dangerous types of bacteria.
Basically, her ice is dirty but not harmful and there's an easy fix.
“Were going to have a cleaning crew come over and show you what you need to do to keep your ice clean”, Brian Carlson told Sandra.
Jared Evans with Jani-King stopped by and took Sandra through the steps of cleaning the actual ice maker in the back of her freezer.
“I didn't even know that was back there”, said Sandra.
White distilled vinegar is the trick.
“We want to release those deposits that are sitting inside those areas and get them flushed out”, said Jared Evans.
Some spraying and a little brushing about every 6 months should take care of any dirty problems with your home ice.
“I was really nervous about what I might have to do to clean it but now I know it’s not as hard as it looks”, said Sandra.
Another tip for keeping your ice clean is about every 5 years you might want to replace the ice maker in your freezer.
It should cost between $50 and $150.