When it comes to food safety in restaurants most individuals only think about the food that is served. However, are you aware that the ice you use in your restaurant or bar is considered a food by the Food and Drug Administration? The administration’s policy is very clear, in that all ice used in the food service industry must be as safe as the drinking water. This policy applies to ice that is consumed as well as ice that is placed in contact with food or beverages for cooling purposes.
It is important for restaurants and bars to ensure the safety of the ice they serve. Ice can be subject to potential contamination from a variety of sources before it even fills a customer’s glass. This is why it is so important to monitor the production and handling of the ice in your restaurant. Freezing does not kill viruses and bacteria that can cause food borne illness, so it is important to make sure that the water used to make the ice is of the utmost quality. It is a good idea to have a regimented schedule in place for changing the water filter on your ice machine. Consult with the ice machine manufacturer’s instructions to know how frequently you should change the water filter.
It is also extremely important to ensure the cleanliness of your ice machines and ice bins. All foodservice operators should have an established routine in place for properly cleaning and sanitizing their ice machine, ice bin and ice handling utensils. The Food and Drug Administration recommends cleaning and sanitizing ice-making equipment at the frequency specified by your ice machine’s manufacturer or at the very least as often as needed to prevent the build-up of soil or mold.
Follow the steps below to ensure that your ice machine and ice bin are cleaned to the Food and Drug Administration’s standards:
1. Make sure that your ice machine is turned off before you begin the cleaning process.
2. Be sure to discard any ice that is in the ice machine and/or ice bin.
3. Using a clean towel, soaked in a food-safe sanitizing solution, wipe down all exposed surfaces of both the interior and exterior of your ice machine and ice bin.
4. Next use a food-safe, spray sanitizer on all exposed surfaces and allow the product to air dry.
5. Be sure to clean the gaskets and the inside of the door surfaces.
6. Once the unit is dry you should use a flash light to inspect the inside of the machine. You will want to check for any residual soil or contamination. If you do see any contaminated areas you must repeat the cleaning process.
7. Before you turn the ice machine back on, ensure that no sanitizer solution has collected inside the ice machine or the ice bin.
While ensuring that your ice machine and ice bin are clean is one of the first steps to ensure safe ice production, you also need to train your employees on the proper way to handle ice. Just like food, ice can be subject to contamination if it is not handled properly. Employees need to be conscious of hand cleanliness as well as the cleanliness of any tool used to handle the ice.
Below are a few guidelines for your employees to follow when handling ice:
1. Employees need to exercise proper hand washing techniques before they handle any ice in your ice machine or ice bin.
2. Have gloves readily available for employees, as well as encourage your employees to wear gloves anytime they remove ice from the ice machine or ice bin.
3. If you use bins or buckets to stock your ice dispenser, train your employees on how to keep the buckets clean. Bins or buckets should never be placed on the floor while filling them, or after use.
4. Only use ice scoops to serve ice; never use a cup as an ice scoop. Be sure that you store your ice scoops in a clean and protected location when not in use.
5. Every four hours, all ice scoops need to be washed, rinsed and sanitized.
6. Always have a reserve supply of ice handling tools. Discard any ice scoops, ice buckets and other ice handling devices if they become chipped or cracked.