Last updated on August 22nd, 2023 at 04:34 pm
Most people tend to view ice much the same as drinking water coming out from the tap – that water and ice are “clean.” However, according to the FDA, ice must be treated like food, as both can be a source of foodborne illness if your employees don’t follow proper ice safety solutions.
According to Code of Federal Regulations Title 21, Volume 8, Section 1250.28:
“All ice coming in contact with food or drink shall be stored and handled in such manner as to avoid contamination.”
Most pathogenic organisms do not readily multiply in ice in restaurants that’s used for food and drinks. However, scientific research has also shown that some bacteria and viruses can survive cold or freezing for long period of time. Therefore, it is important for restaurant operators to ensure their ice does not become contaminated.
How Ice Becomes Contaminated
Contamination can be introduced by airborne particles, contaminated water supply, food handlers or dirty utensils. But the main cause of ice in restaurants, bars, and hotels becoming contaminated is human error. Simply put, the biggest risk is improper ice handling.
Training your staff in proper ice safety solutions is critical! Contaminated ice can cause food-borne illness. Reduce your risk with regular cleanings, periodic thorough sanitation (by a professional), regular maintenance, and, of course, training.
Other contributing factors to ice contamination include lack of regular inspections, exposure to poor hygiene and improper handling of ice. You don’t want your restaurant or hotel guests getting sick because of inadequate cleanings and sanitation of your automatic ice machine!
While training your employees in proper ice safety solutions is up to you, professional cleanings can also help reduce the chances of accidental contamination. At Easy Ice, we perform at least two professional cleanings on all the equipment we provide under our all-inclusive ice machine subscriptions. If your commercial ice machine is in a high yeast environment (pizzerias and breweries for example) or if you’re water source is from a well, we provide additional professional deep cleanings. Not only do our cleanings help meet ice machine regulations from inspectors, but they also limit expensive ice machine repairs down the road like an ice maker freeze up or an ice maker that stops making ice. Clean ice makers also have a higher ice cube production than a dirty ice machine.
4 Steps You Can Take Today to Protect Your Business’s Ice
To reduce the risk of ice being a source of foodborne illness, restaurant operators and managers should be aware of the following points and conduct regular self-inspection to identify problems:
1) Train Your Restaurant or Bar Staff on Proper Ice Safety Solutions
- Wash hands before getting ice from ice making machine.
- Hold only the ice scoop handle and not other parts of the scoop.
- Do not scoop ice using water glasses or cups and never handle the ice with hands.
- Do not return unused ice to the ice machine/ice bin.
- Keep doors of the commercial ice machine closed except when removing ice.
- Ice scoops should be stored outside the ice maker and kept in a clean container. Ice scoop and container should be washed and sanitized regularly.
- Do not store anything such as food, drinks, fruit etc. in the ice machine. Never use the ice machine as a refrigerator!
- Clean the ice making machine regularly and fix all problems identified.
- NEVER PUT ANYTHING IN THE ICE BIN…EXCEPT CLEAN, UNTOUCHED ICE!
2) Inspect, Clean, and Sanitize the Ice Making Machine Regularly
Other ice safety solutions include checking the machine periodically for visible dirt, grime, or mold and performing light cleaning and sanitizing every few days. This is not the same as the professional, deep cleanings we perform at Easy Ice. Light cleanings keep high-use surfaces free of debris and more sanitized, so employees don’t accidentally transfer pathogens to other employees or to the ice supply.
- Inspect the exterior of the machine. Ensure the door, handle, and hatch of the ice machine are clean and in good repair.
- Any EPA-approved ice machine disinfectant can be used to wipe down high-use areas outside of the ice machine.
- Look for any evidence of growth of scum, slime, or mold inside the machine. If growth of mold or slime is observed, immediately clean according to the manufacturer’s instructions. (Tip: During ice bin cleaning, all ice should be removed from the ice bin and disposed during cleaning to avoid cross contamination by chemicals).
- Routine cleaning of an ice making machine should be done periodically by staff. The process can be as simple as running a sanitizing solution through the cycle, then running two cycles of ice, then disposing that ice before running ice for drinks and food. Make sure this is part of your daily cleaning schedule!
3) Routine Ice Machine Service, Maintenance, and Deep Cleaning/Sanitizing
Ice machine service should be performed by a professional technician at least twice per year. This requires taking apart the ice machine for inspection, plus deep cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing. This type of cleaning and inspection needs to be performed by a professional.
When you choose Easy Ice, your ice maker subscription includes these two deep cleanings a year. We even schedule these inspections for you – saving you not only time but money! This helps to assure your ice machine is clean when the Health Inspector stops by.
A typical cleaning routine would include the following steps:
- Turn off the ice machine electrical supply and empty your Manitowoc or Hoshizaki ice bin.
- Remove the protective curtain or cover (if present) and check the drain to ensure it is clear.
- Clean all surfaces inside using hot water and a cleaner or detergent, follow with an antibacterial sanitizer by wiping all internal surfaces and allow adequate contact-time for the sanitizer to work. (Tip: Do not rinse off the surfaces, allow to air dry)
- Wash and sanitize the plastic curtains, cover, ice scoops etc. (Tip: Use hot water and detergent for washing and then soak in a sterilizing solution per manufacturer’s instructions)
- Check the door and ensure it can close tightly to prevent dirt entering the ice making machine.
- Switch machine back on and ensure it works properly.
4) Additional factors to consider for cleaning and sanitizing of commercial ice machines
Microorganisms such as bacteria, can grow together and secret a matrix of polymers to form a protective shield known as Biofilm on surfaces such as food & ice container, ice machine walls, trays etc. Think of the bacteria producing a secretion to make a ‘bionic blanket’ covering themselves and protecting them from attack by chemicals such as cleaning & sanitizing agents. Within the biofilm, pathogens like Salmonella, Listeria, E. coli, Shigella can survive and can cause spoilage or infection later when released.
The best way to prevent biofilms from developing is regular cleaning & sanitizing of all surfaces that come in contact with food, drinks & ice. However, if biofilms have already formed, surfaces must be physically cleaned by scrubbing and then follow with sanitizing to kill the pathogens to ensure a clean and safe environment for food, drinks & ice.
Defective Equipment or Parts on the Ice Machine
Hoses and taps connecting to the ice machine for preventing back-flow, if damaged or worn, can cause contamination to water supply and ice. Repair or replace hoses and taps when required. The door seal, if damaged or loose, can allow dirt or other contaminants to enter the ice bin or storage compartment. Water filters need to be regularly changed (at least twice per year – more often if in yeasty or dusty environment. and you may need an upgraded water filter for these conditions). Commercial ice machine subscriptions from Easy Ice include free standard water filter replacements 2x/year.
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Ice Machine Ventilation
Poor ventilation in location where the ice machine is located can affect the efficiency of the ice making process. If the room is too hot and/or with high humidity, the cooling capacity of the ice machine may be affected. This can cause condensation inside the machine, encouraging rapid mold growth.
Add Professional Cleaning to Your List of Ice Safety Solutions
Ice safety is as important as food safety and should be a priority for your restaurant, hotel or bar. By following the above protocol, you can be assured of serving your guests clean, safe ice. Choose to ignore these key points and you may receive a fine, or worse – a shut down, from the Health Inspector. Protect your reputation, your guests and your bank account!
If you are looking for an inexpensive ice machine solution that includes everything you need to take care of your commercial ice maker, our all-inclusive ice machine subscriptions are the way to go! We provide the best ice machines along with routine professional cleaning. Our program helps to reduce the chances of receiving a damaging health inspection, but keeping machines looking like new. We also include maintenance and repairs for every ice machine we install. Keeping up with ice safety solutions can be a chore, so let The Ice Machine Experts help. Contact us today!
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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