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Serving Ice From Machines

Since 1968, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has traced numerous outbreaks of illness to the use of contaminated ice. Although ice can become contaminated through a variety of circumstances, including microorganisms in the potable water supply, the most likely causes of ice contamination are poor handling and storage practices. Because ice machines are widely used in the food service industry, it is essential for food service personnel to be familiar with the health and safety precautions that pertain to the use and maintenance of ice machines.

Most pathogens do not readily multiply in foods below 46° F (8° C). Research has shown, however, that certain bacteria and viruses can survive freezing for many hours and can remain viable in strong alcoholic drinks. It is therefor important that ice not become contaminated by food handlers, dirty utensils, or airborne particles.

To reduce the likelihood that ice will become a vehicle for foodborne illness, food service managers and personnel should know that the most likely sources of ice contamination are: 1) inadequate cleaning of icemaking machines or equipment and 2) poor hygiene practices when the ice is handle. Taking the following precaution can greatly reduce the risk that ice will become contaminated.

Water Supply

  • The ice machine should be connected directly to a wholesome main water supply.

Machine Location

  • The ce machine should be located in an area free of dirt and dust, preferably off the ground and away from any heat sources.
  • Space and ventilation around the machine should be sufficient to provide good air movement.

Serving the Machine

  • Manufacturers usually give servicing instructions in their information manuals. Most machines require servicing at least twice a year.

Cleaning the Machine

  • The ice storage compartment should be cleaned regularly (at least every two weeks) to prevent bacteria growth. It also should be monitored for scum or lime buildup. If growth become apparent, the compartment should be cleaned immediately according to the manufacturer's instructions: The ice should be removed and the compartment cleaned with bicarbonate of soda, a residual-free sanitizer, or a solution of vinegar and water. This step should be followed by a thorough rinse.
  • The ice that has been removed from the machine to allow for cleaning should be disposed of. It should not be returned to the ice machine.
  • The exterior surfaces of the machine - particularly the door or hatch of the storage compartment - must be kept clean.

Hygienic Handling, Storage, and Service of Ice

  • Users should wash and dry their hands thoroughly before dispensing ice from the machine. The ice always should be removed with a clean utensil such as a scoop - hands should never be used. A glass tumbler is not suitable; if the glass gets chipped or broken while ice is being removed from the storage compartment, glass fragments could get lost inside the machine.
  • The scoop should be smooth and kept on a chain short enough so the scoop cannot touch the floor. When not in use, it should be stored in sanitizer solution (not left in the machine), which should be changed regularly. Both the scoop and the container it is kept in should be located in a clean place.
  • When using the scoop, it should be held by the handle only, other parts of the scoop should not be touched.
  • The door or hatch of the ice machine should be kept closed except when ice being dispensed from the machine.
  • The ice compartment of the machine should not be used to store bottles of beer, cans of soft drinks, cartons of milk or any other items.
  • If ice is stored in ice buckets, the buckets must have lids. Also, ice buckets should be kept behind the bar, accessible to staff alone, so customers do not handle the ice with their bare hands.
  • Ice buckets and serving utensils must be regularly cleaned and sanitized. The ice remaining in an ice bucket at closing time should be disposed of - not returned to the ice machine.

General Safety

  • Before proceeding with any cleaning operation, verify that the machine's electrical power supply is switched off and that the water line is closed.

Taken from the FOOD environment news digest, Fall 1999.