National Food Safety Month: Focus on Ice

 

We’re halfway through National Food Safety Month… have you checked your ice machines?  Whether you’re in the restaurant business or not, food safety is an important issue.  When you think about food safety, most folks’ minds go to cross-contamination, allergy issues and food temperatures.  Many, even in the food industry, don’t consider ice as a possible health safety issue. Yet ice is considered a food product by the FDA and needs the same consideration as food when thinking about safety and contamination.

A report out the U.K. earlier this summer raised red flags around ice bacteria in a scathing report that concluded 6 in 10 fast food restaurants had ice that was dirtier than toilet water.  This finding certainly had the “ick factor” and had consumers on both sides on the pond questioning the safety and sanitation of the ice in their beverages.  (Note: As a consumer, you can contact your state’s Health Department to learn about health inspection violations at foodservice establishments in your area.)

A convenience store association conducted a study with it’s members around ice machines and cleanliness.  A significant percentage of respondents said they didn’t clean their ice machines because they thought they were “self-cleaning”.  Others neglected to replace water filters regularly.  Ignoring the potential health consequences of dirty ice doesn’t make the problem go away!  Proactive inspections and cleanings will keep your ice machine free from mold and dreaded  slime (bacteria) which can lead to illness.

Commercial ice machines need to be professionally deep-cleaned at least twice per year.  (More often if the ice machine is in a yeasty environment, like a pizza parlor or bakery.)   Easy Ice, the nation’s leading provider of all-inclusive ice machine subscriptions, advises the following tasks in between thorough cleanings:

  • Always – make sure the ice machine is protected from extreme temperatures (no less than 40F and no higher than 90F) and ensure the the equipment has unrestricted air flow
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  • Weekly – clean the exterior surfaces of the commercial ice machine with diluted bleach to inhibit mold growth.
  • Frequently – rinse out ice machine air filters. Grease, dust and lint in the air filter will decrease the performance of the ice maker.  NOTE: Do not bang or hit the air filters on anything to clean — this will damage the filter.
  • Periodically – check both the ice maker and the bin drain pipes at the floor drain to make sure it is free of debris.
  • Never – use the ice machine as a storage unit (i.e. don’t stack boxes or store supplies on top of the equipment).

 

Health inspectors look at ice machines

Food and ice safety are imperative for any successful restaurant.   If a customer becomes ill due to food/ice borne contaminants, your restaurant can suffer.   A bad Yelp review can tarnish even the most popular establishments.   And a poor inspection from the health department can lead to costly fines or temporary closure of your restaurant.

 

Most importantly, your reputation depends on your customers leaving happy and healthy.  Reducing risk of food or ice bourn illness is not difficult, but it does take consistent attention and effort.  Outsourcing equipment cleanings to professionals will ensure it’s sanitation.  You’re an expert at running your business, not an ice machine expert.  Easy Ice can help your company reduce it’s risks of ice-borne illness with it’s all-inclusive ice machine service.

Deep cleaning a commercial ice machine requires a lot more than wiping down surfaces and emptying the bin.  Ice machines are complicated with lots of moving parts that need attention during a cleaning.  If you want to pass your health inspection, you better have a clean ice machine!  Your restaurant staff doesn’t have the time or expertise to properly clean a commercial ice maker.  Leave this to experts you can trust!