When it comes to ice, the Food and Drug Administration is crystal clear: Ice is considered a food—and it must be as safe as drinking water. The rule applies whether the ice is to be consumed or placed in contact with food or beverages to cool them.
The challenge for quick-service restaurants is to ensure the safety of the ice they serve. Before ice fills a customer’s cup, it is subject to potential contamination from a number of sources, including the water used to make it, the air that contacts it, the equipment that freezes and dispenses it, and the utensils and hands that handle it.
If ice becomes contaminated, even its below-freezing temperature cannot assure that disease-causing microorganisms are eliminated. “Freezing does not invariably kill viruses and bacteria that cause foodborne illness,” says Amelia Trant, Senior Microbiologistat Ecolab. “Instead, it could even preserve them. Ice is not safe just because it is frozen.”
So how can you best ensure that the ice you serve is safe?
“Proper cleaning of ice machines and ice bins and good ice-handling practices will help maintain ice safety and quality,” Trant says. “And if you use a water filter, be sure to change it according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.”
Clean ice machines and ice bins frequently
To help keep ice free of potentially harmful microorganisms, establish a routine for cleaning and sanitizing your ice machine, bins and utensils. “Frequency is critical,” Trant says. The Food and Drug Administration recommends cleaning and sanitizing ice-making equipment at the frequency specified by the manufacturer or, if lacking the manufacturer’s instructions, as needed to prevent the build-up of soil or mold.
Follow these steps to clean your ice machine and bins:
Practice safe ice-handling
Like other food, ice is subject to contamination when improperly handled. Ecolab’s Trant recommends training restaurant employees to follow these guidelines when handling ice:
Ensuring that the ice you serve is clean and safe doesn’t need to be complicated. You can keep it simple by making frequent cleaning of your ice equipment part of your overall cleaning and sanitation schedule—and by emphasizing good ice-handling practices day to day and during staff training.
By Dixie Berg for Ecolab
The five times weekly e-newsletter that keeps you up-to-date on the latest industry news and additions to this website.