Food ice is used as an ingredient or as a coolant in drinks and in the storage of food, especially fishery products. Studies show that ice can be polluted both by chemical substances and by bacteria and fungi. In particular, the presence of fungi in these food matrices has acquired an important role in Public Health, as it can represent a risk factor for fungal complications in immunocompromised subjects. In the present study we evaluated the hygiene-sanitary quality of food ice from public and collective catering establishments in a large area of Southern Italy, investigating the mandatory parameters (Escherichia coli, coliform and Enterococci) and some accessory parameters (Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and fungi) provided for Italian Legislative Decree 31/01. Although 54.5% of samples were compliant, the results highlight a vast contamination of food ice by bacteria and fungi. In particular, 95.8% of samples were contaminated by fungi, stressing no difference between compliant and non-compliant samples. Their presence is generally attributable to the poor sanitation conditions in the production and/or administration phase and to the incorrect sanitization and ordinary maintenance procedures. It seems appropriate to suggest the need to carry out a specific risk assessment with respect to the self-control plans.
Keywords: E. coli; Public Health; coliform; food hygiene; food ice; fungi.; ice machines; microbial contamination.