Water is a unique substance which is vital for life and on an average a person needs 2 liters of water every day for maintaining normal health. Yet water is never considered a food as it does not provide any of the nutrients like calories, proteins, fats or essential micro nutrients. For a number of years in a country like India quality and safety of water used by food processing industry were never covered by the erstwhile PFA rules. Only now that it is receiving attention from the regulators and water for food processing must meet the minimum standards laid down under the ISI quality band. Ice is another substance used extensively by the food industry including fish processors and surprisingly no law covers this ubiquitous substance leaving the ice trade totally uncontrolled. This issue is now receiving attention at the hands of regulators and new rules are being promulgated to meet the exigency of the situation. Here is a take on this emerging development vis-a-vis ice.
'That means, packaged ice must be produced in accordance with the agency's Current Good Manufacturing Practices in Manufacturing, Packing, or Holding Human Food. Translation? Ice manufacturers "must 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." During inspections, FDA investigators make sure: the plumbing design prevents contamination, the water supply is safe and sanitary, and and the facility and grounds are sanitary. Small-scale producers are exempt. Labels must also meet FDA requirements. An ingredient list and nutrition fact box are not necessary, but the labels must contain other information such as the name and place of business of the manufacturer, packer, or distributor of the ice and the net quantity of the contents. Ice labeled as made from spring water or artesian well water must actually be derived from those sources".
With refrigeration technology developing at a fast pace, use of solid ice is becoming some what declining but those who transport fresh fish still depend on solid ice made by the so called ice factories, most of them located near the fish landing regions on the coastal areas for temporary preservation till they reach the market or processing facilities. Though vectors like bacteria do not survive at temperatures less than 4 C, there is the possibility of dirt, non-biological contaminants and even live but hibernating bacteria getting into the ice in the factories where it is made under unhygienic conditions. Therefore laying down standards for adherence by the ice manufacturers is timely and crucial. Strict compliance to these standards must be insisted on and enforced.