Food stores, including meat and fish markets, grocery stores, and bakeries, require a safe, reliable supply of ice. Ice is the backbone of fresh fish and other cold displays, can be sold in bags, and is required for drink dispensers. Two things matter most for grocery store ice machines: consistency and safety. Store management wants both a reliable ice supply that meets the store’s needs and germfree ice for customers and employees to consume. Though the best guarantee of a constant ice supply is an Easy Ice subscription, keep reading for safe ice machine usage protocols that protect ice from contamination.
Ice Machines in Food Stores
Ice machines serve several functions in grocery stores, fish markets, general markets, bakeries, and other food-related shops.
Flake ice makers may supply ice for cold food or drink displays. Not only does flake ice make for attractive displays, its unique shape actually helps hold items in place.
Food stores may also bag their own ice for sale. Ice makers like the Follett DevIce Dispensing Ice Bin with Bagging Kit make this quick and easy.
Grocery store beverage and ice dispensers may have a modular cube or nugget style ice machine on top that supplies ice for customers to serve themselves. Or the dispenser may be manually filled up with ice that employees haul from a high-capacity ice machine in the back.
Choosing the Right Ice Making Equipment
For self-serve ice and drink dispensers, the touchless version is ideal. More and more, hands-free ice and drink dispensers are being installed in grocery stores, markets, and other places with high traffic usage. This kind of unit reduces the spread of germs.
Traditional beverage and ice dispensing machines rely on a lever or push button to activate. Touchless dispensers are activated without human contact, which dramatically reduces risk of bacteria transmission.
If your grocery store ice machine already has a traditional (non-touchless) dispenser, don’t worry. By following the usage practices below and encouraging customers to follow them, you can still reduce the risk of contamination.
Grocery Store Beverage Dispenser Rules
The rules below should be posted near every beverage dispenser and ice machine.
For Your Safety, Please Follow These Rules:
- Sanitize your hands before and after using this machine.
- Do not dump any beverage into the tray unless it came from this dispenser. Do not put food of any kind in the tray.
- Do not refill used cups. Use a new or clean cup every time.
Grocery Store Ice Bin Rules
Bacteria likes to grow in dark, damp places. That means food store ice bins are the perfect germ habitat. There are two ways to reduce bacteria in the ice bin: have the ice bin thoroughly cleaned and prevent contaminants from entering the ice bin in the first place.
We’ll discuss cleaning later on. The following rules are critical in helping limit the contaminants that enter the ice bin, especially via ice machine accessories. Train all employees on these rules, and consider posting them near or on the ice maker. Make sure the necessary accessory storage options are available (such as hooks for ice transport buckets, scoop holder, etc.).
For Employee and Customer Safety, Please Follow These Rules
- Do not leave scoop in the ice at any time. Store scoop in holder or in designated spot.
- Do not leave ice shovels inside the ice bin.
- Always sanitize hands before scooping ice from the bin.
- Wear a mask when scooping ice from the bin.
- Never eat or drink while scooping ice from the bin.
- Always shut the bin door after use.
- Do not stack ice transport buckets. Hang them or store off the ground on a shelf.
- Never scoop ice with the bucket, a glass, a pitcher, or with another container. Only remove ice with the scoop.
Cleaning Grocery Store Ice Machines
There are two levels of ice machine cleaning: regular cleaning and deep cleaning. Deep cleaning is a thorough process performed by an ice machine technician and involves the interior and exterior of the ice machine and bin.
Ice machine manufacturers recommend at least two deep cleans per year. More deep cleanings may be needed in environments with lots of airborne toxins, such as flour or dust. Does your grocery store produce its own bread? An expert ice machine technician can tell you if flour is building up quickly in the ice machine and if additional deep cleans are required.
Regular cleaning for grocery store ice machines involves wiping down, disinfecting, and sanitizing any parts of the unit, dispensers, and bin that come into contact with humans. Follow the steps below to perform regular cleaning that will reduce germs and the risk of contamination from your grocery store’s ice maker.
Regular Cleaning Instructions
Ice makers and dispensers should be cleaned, disinfected, and sanitized on a regular basis in addition to deep cleaning. Utilize a food-grade bleach or other EPA-approved cleaning solution. You will need to mix it with water. Check the label to find the dilution rates for disinfecting and sanitizing. Mix up a solution of each.
For beverage dispensers, at least once per week, apply solutions on all areas where beverages could potentially splash. See the instructions below for which solution to begin with.
Solutions can be sprayed or wiped on the exterior of ice bins and ice machines as well, especially focusing on high-touch areas like ice bin doors.
- Apply the disinfecting solution and leave it on for at least 10 minutes. Continue to spray or wipe on disinfectant as needed to ensure the surface is wet for the whole time. Then thoroughly rinse away the solution with water.
- Next, spray on sanitizing solution. Continue to spray or apply the sanitizer to ensure a two-minute wet contact time. No need to rinse this one, let it air dry on the surface.
- Frequently pour un-diluted cleaning solution (e.g. bleach) down the ice dispenser drain. This may be needed daily or weekly depending on how well users adhere to the policy of not dumping other beverages or food in the drain.
Invest in Customer and Employee Safety
Managing an ice machine involves even more than keeping it safe from contaminants. Ice makers are expensive to buy and difficult to keep running optimally. Problems with an ice maker in a grocery store or busy rest stop can upset customers and stall business.
Grocery store, food store, and market owners who subscribe to Easy Ice know their ice makers – and their customers – are safe and secure in the hands of Ice Machine Experts. We install top-quality ice machines, and then we provide all maintenance, repairs, and deep cleans moving forward. We even provide back-up ice to our customers if their machine is down for any reason.
As the Co-Founder and COO of Easy Ice, John Mahlmeister has been working in the commercial ice machine industry since 2009. Co-headquartered in Phoenix, AZ and Marquette, MI, Easy Ice is the only national provider of full-service ice machine subscriptions in the industry. Since Easy Ice was founded, the number of ice machines under its management has grown to over 30,000 units across 47 states, with no signs of slowing down.
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