Iced drinks get cold shoulder after news

With the recent discovery of a factory that distributed ice blocks made from E. coli-contaminated water in Jakarta, a number of people have expressed concern about buying iced drinks from street vendors.

Unoviana Kartika, 24, said on Monday that the news had worried her greatly and that from now on she would opt for cold packaged beverages sold at minimarkets instead of iced beverages sold by street vendors.

She said she had always suspected that some ice was made with questionable water but was still surprised to learn that some was made with dirty, foul water from the Kalimalang river in Jakarta.

"Previously, I thought it was only unboiled water, but the fact that it was taken from the river and had chemicals added to it really shocked me," Unoviana told The Jakarta Post.

On Thursday, the South Jakarta Police and Setiabudi Police revealed they had closed down an ice manufacturing company that allegedly had been producing ice blocks using water taken from the Kalimalang river. The river flows through East Jakarta to Bekasi in West Java.

Water from all rivers in Jakarta has a very high level of pollution that makes it untreatable, forcing water company PAM Jaya to take raw water from the Jatiluhur Dam in West Java and Tangerang in Banten.

The factory had been operating for almost 15 years.

The police said the ice was sold to vendors for between Rp 12,000 (S$1.26) and Rp 30,000 per block and the factory aimed to sell 2,000 ice blocks per day.

Laboratory tests revealed that ice from the factory was mixed with chemicals such as chlorine and caustic soda and contained Escherichia coli bacteria, which could cause a number of diseases, most commonly bloody diarrhoea.

Both the city administration and the Jakarta Food and Drug Monitoring Agency (BPOM) denied that monitoring was their responsibility, with each saying the task was the other's responsibility.

Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama said, however, that starting this year, the Jakarta administration and the BPOM would increase supervision of street vendors and their products.

Nugraha Alamsjah, a resident of Duren Sawit in East Jakarta, said he always avoided buying beverages with ice from street vendors, but was concerned that his daughter would buy such beverages near her elementary school.

"What worries me is the street vendors near my daughter's elementary school. I don't think they sell hygienic food and beverages, and now that I have learned about the ice blocks from the news, I will surely prohibit her from buying any," he said.

Edy, who runs an es campur (sweet iced cocktail) store in Cinere, West Java, said he had not heard about the tainted ice blocks, but he quickly emphasised that his source of ice was safe. He said his supplier was from Depok, West Java.

He added that he purchased ice for Rp 35,000 per block and was certain that he could trust his supplier to deliver ice of good quality.

"I have been here for five years and have never received any complaints from customers about getting sick or whatever after buying my es campur," Edy said.

Setiabudi Police criminal unit head Comr. Agus Rizal said the police had declared DN, the owner of the vehicle used to transport the contaminated ice, a suspect, as well as factory manager, identified only as AL.

Agus said the two would be charged under Article 94 of the 2004 Water Resources Law, Article 62 of the 1999 Consumer Protection Law and articles 135 and 140 of the 2012 Food Safety Law.