Experts: Milk in ice cream, prone to E.coli contamination

Posted at Nov 28 2014 06:03 PM | Updated as of Dec 02 2014 12:59 AM

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Dairy products are highly susceptible to bacterial contamination, and cold storage does not guarantee 100% food safety, experts warned.

"Tatandaan natin na 'yung milk, mixed for preparation of ice cream, ay complete medium para sa pagdami ng bacteria (We should always remember that milk used in the preparation of ice cream is a complete medium for bacteria to multiply)," said microbiologist Dr. Windell Rivera.

According to experts, bacteria are known to thrive in a moist environment, and nutritious milk is the perfect fuel for their growth. This is why, if improperly stored or handled, milk sours easily.

Filipino households are very fond of buying sorbetes, or "dirty ice cream", from vendors. These come in different flavors, and are stored in cooled vats transported by cart.

There is a certain stigma attached to "dirty ice cream", as they are peddled in the street. However, contrary to the belief that people can only get sick when buying food prepared outside the home, bacterial contamination can also occur within a household kitchen.

Also, if vendors follow proper practices to keep their food and supplies clean, the food they peddle will be safe to eat.

Kitchen utensils and storage areas, if not cleaned thoroughly and regularly, could be prone to bacterial growth. Cross contamination in the kitchen can occur when a contaminated utensil is used on another object or food, hence causing the transfer of potential disease-causing bacteria.

Experts say bacteria such as E.coli, Staphylococcus aureus, and Salmonella can inhabit milk, ice cream and dairy products. Once ingested by humans, these bacteria can cause infection, inducing symptoms including fever, diarrhea, vomiting, or nausea.

Rivera further warned, storage in the freezer or refrigerator does not always make dairy products completely safe from contamination, as cold temperatures merely prevent the growth of bacteria to harmful levels.

"Kapag nilabas mo ulit sa freezer, may possibility siya (bacteria) ulit na dumami (If you take the ice cream or milk out of the freezer, there is a possibility for the bacteria to once again multiply)," he said.

Rivera added, kitchen cleaners can also be carriers of disease, if not thoroughly disinfected.

"Ang sponge na ginamit sa panlinis, pwede maging source ng contamination. (A kitchen sponge used for cleaning can be a source of contamination)," he said.

Experts do not discourage the public from buying ice cream. However, safety precautions must be ensured to keep it safe, especially as ice cream is popular during Christmas feasts.

To avoid diseases, experts advise keeping kitchens and storage areas clean. Utensils must also be washed carefully to avoid cross contamination of harmful bacteria.

When buying dairy products, experts suggest buying pasteurized products over their raw counterparts.