You should treat ice like you would food because both can cause foodborne illness if you don’t follow proper ice safety solutions.
The FDA defines ice as food, and as such, has health code regulations regarding them.
Most contaminants don’t proliferate on ice. However, research has also shown that some bacteria and viruses can survive cold and even freezing temperatures. That’s why it’s important for business owners to make sure their ice does not become contaminated. You should treat ice like you would food because both can cause foodborne illness if you don’t follow proper ice safety solutions.
How Ice Contamination Happens
Contamination can stem from a few places. Contaminants can transfer through airborne particles, a contaminated water supply, food handlers, or dirty utensils.
However, the number one cause of contaminated ice is human error, more specifically, improper ice handling. That’s why training your staff on ice safety is so important! Contaminated ice can cause foodborne illness, which can severely hurt your business.
You can reduce the risk of contaminated ice with routine cleaning by staff, professional sanitation by an experienced ice machine technician, regular maintenance, and, of course, training.
If you want to reduce the chance foodborne illness from your ice, restaurant owners and staff should follow these ice safety solutions:
Train Your Staff in Ice Safety Solutions
- Staff needs to wash their hands before retrieving ice from the bin.
- Only touch the ice scoop handle, not the shovel end.
- Never use glassware to get ice and never grab ice with hands.
- Don’t throw unused ice back into the ice bin.
- Keep the bin door closed except when removing ice.
- Ice scoops should be stored outside of the ice bin in a clean container. Make sure to sanitize the ice scoop and container regularly.
- Never store food, drinks, fruit, etc. in the ice bin. The ice machine is not a refrigerator!
Inspect and Clean the Ice Machine Regularly
- Check the exterior of the machine to make sure the door and handle are clean and in good condition.
- Look to see if any slime or mold is growing inside the machine. If you do see mold or slime, clean the machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Make sure your staff does routine cleaning. Make sure this is part of your cleaning schedule!
Get Routine Professional Maintenance and Cleaning
Your ice machine should receive professional service and cleaning at least twice per year. Since that means taking the ice machine apart, this type of cleaning and inspection should be performed by a professional!
A typical cleaning generally includes the following steps:
- Turning off the electrical supply and emptying the ice bin.
- Removing the protective cover and making sure the drain is clear of obstruction.
- Cleaning all surfaces inside using specialized cleaners, which is followed with an antibacterial sanitizer
- Washing and sanitizing the plastic curtains, covers, ice scoops, etc.
- Checking the door to make sure it’s secure.
- Switching the machine back on and timing the first batch of ice to ensure it works properly.
Additional Ice Safety Solutions to Consider
Microorganisms can grow together to form what we call a biofilm on food and ice containers, ice machine walls, and trays. This biofilm protects microorganisms from chemicals such as cleaning and sanitizing agents. Within the biofilm, pathogens like Salmonella, Listeria, E. coli, Shigella can potentially make someone very sick.
Again, regular cleaning and sanitizing of all surfaces is the best way to prevent your ice from becoming contaminated.
If biofilms have already formed, you can physically clean them out by scrubbing with a sanitizing agent.
Fixing Defective Ice Machine Components
Certain hoses and valves that prevent water from flowing back into the machine. If damaged or worn, these hoses can’t properly guard against contamination to the water supply and ice.
A qualified ice machine technician can repair or replace hoses and valves if required.
If the door seal is damaged or loose, it can allow dirt or other contaminants to enter your ice bin.
Finally, water filters need regular changing (generally twice per year, but more often in yeasty or dusty work environments).
Ice Machine Ventilation
Poor ventilation can cause an ice machine to overheat, which will lower the efficiency of the ice-making process. If the ice machine overheats the room, the ice machine’s performance may be affected. This can also cause increased condensation inside the machine, which can lead to mold growth.
Proper Ice Safety Solutions are Your Key to a Clean Ice Supply
Following ice safety solutions is just as important as food safety. By following these tips, you can be sure your guests are getting clean, safe ice. Ignore these suggestions, and you’ll likely receive a violation, or worse, forced shut down by the Health Inspector.