According to the Food and Drug Administration, the average American buys four bags of packaged ice each year, 80 percent of it between Memorial and Labor Day.
Phoenix-based ice-packaging company Ice King can attest to the hustle of the summer season, making approximately 100 tons of ice a day.
"It's our busiest time of year," said Ryan Maasen, president of Ice King. "This is our Christmas."
No matter how busy things get during the summer, safety and cleanliness remain a priority because of the possibility of ice contamination. SafeIce.org calls it a serious public-health concern, citing studies that show ice handled improperly can test for unacceptable levels of bacteria like E. coli, which can make people sick.
But just because you purchased ice from a store, doesn't mean that it's clean.
According to the International Packaged Ice Association, "Most people believe that bottled water and packaged ice meet the same rigorous quality and safety standards. This is most certainly not the case."
The association says 50 to 60 percent of all packaged ice sold in the U.S. and Canada is produced on-premises at supermarkets, gas stations, liquor stores, campgrounds and other retail and wholesale outlets. These facilities are not inspected by the FDA for this type of manufacturing, which means there's no way to know how many hands have come into contact with the ice that is now in your drink.
At a regulated facility, such as Ice King, the ice is created and bagged by machines.
"It's a non-touch process, and that's how we keep our ice clean," Maasen said. But that's hardly where the regulations end.
At ice-manufacturing plants, the FDA requires the company to "produce, hold and transport ice in clean and sanitary conditions, monitor the cleanliness and hygiene of employees, use properly cleaned and maintained equipment, and use water that is safe and sanitary."
How do you know if the ice you're purchasing is properly regulated?
Here are three key things to look for, according to the packaged-ice association:
• The bag must be properly closed and secure (no drawstring ties).
• The bag must have the manufacturer's name, address and phone number.
• The bag must have a product code.
The ice in your home's freezer can be contaminated too! So pay attention to the color (if it's not clear, it's not pure), size (if it looks like it's shrunk, it's old), and the smell! If you think something's off, throw the ice out.