Ice is food.

Some food service operators and their employees take that fact for granted. They don’t take proper precautionary measures to handle the product properly or the necessary preventive maintenance measures to ensure that the ice machine is clean, sanitary and operating safely. below are some best practices and questions to ask. Some are basic and some are worth taking a second look.

  • Make sure to properly clean the floor drain, inspect for leaks, and remove any standing water on the floor under the ice machine. This can be a breeding area for drain/fruit flies or any other species of fly. I have seen both live and dead flies that have made their way into the machine or in direct contact with the ice.
  • While we’re on the topics of insects, look out for cockroaches. The warm, wet areas can be a favorite hangout, especially the interior motor area behind the front panel. If there is an infestation, you may have contaminated ice. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want a potential Salmonella infection in my adult beverage. Ask yourself: What are those little black specks frozen in the cubes?
  • That ice shovel, where are we storing it? Is it hung on a dirty wall, does it even get cleaned or sanitized, is the contact surface excessively scored or chipped, or are your maintenance personnel using the ice shovel to remove garbage from the compactor pad, too?
  • Is the ice scoop stored on top of the dusty ice machine top? Is the contact surface compromised, or the scoop used for something else?
  • Do we make sure we disconnect the ice machine, empty it, and clean and sanitize the interior when there is a contaminated water emergency? Is there a backflow prevention device on the unit?
  • What does the gasket to the ice machine door look like? If it is damaged, humid air can constantly enter the interior of the machine and accelerate mold growth. I am assuming that everyone looks for pink or black mold growth, especially around the chute and interior surfaces of ice machines.
  • Are the inside walls of the ice machine rusted?
  • Clean the dust off the filter. It will help the ice machine’s performance and save electricity. Speaking of filters, how about that black water filter that is mounted near the machine on the wall? Ever wonder about changing that?
  • Is there a contracted company that takes care of cleaning and preventive maintenance of the ice machine? There should be, at least once a month.
  • Are food handling employees properly trained in handling ice? Do they scoop ice with their bare hands or a glass? Are they using enough ice to keep products cold if necessary, or are they reusing contaminated ice?

Ice and ice machines need to be taken into consideration throughout the year, not just as a summer afterthought.

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