Keep an Essential Product Clean: I

t can be surprising to think that ice can “go bad.” After all, ice is often used to keep other foods and drinks safe.

“The reality is that dirty ice machines

were citied 20 percent of the time on health inspections in 2019,” says Ecolab’s Mandy Sedlak, principal regulatory specialist and food safety and public health manager for EcoSure. She has the Registered Environ- mental Health Specialist/Registered Sani- tarian (REHS/RS) credential from the Na- tional Environmental Health Association. Ice is considered a ready-to-eat food and

thus subject to cross contamination—for in- stance, an ice container should never be put on the floor while you’re filling it up. And dirty ice doesn’t always look like you’d ex- pect—mold in an ice machine can be pink, yellow, or brown. Just over a month ago, a number of senior living communities in one metro area were listed for ice violations. Seniors can be more susceptible to

foodborne illnesses, Sedlak notes. The most common method of killing potential germs—heat—can’t be used with ice, obvi- ously. And with more communities holding parties and enjoying outdoor dining, ice safety best practices could use a refresher.

A clean machine Quality starts with the ice machine, and the machine’s operation starts with the water quality—and water quality means filtration, says Peter Voss, senior research, development, and engineering program leader, water solutions, at Ecolab. “The appropriate filtration program in place with scale control and ensuring that filters are being changed on a regular schedule can help to extend the life of the machine and decrease maintenance costs,” Voss says.

Cleaning is also the guideline for when

it’s time to replace a machine or its parts. Chips, breakage, or rust—anything that interferes with thorough cleaning—means it’s time for something new. But operators can also help avoid costly re-

placements by adhering to a monthly clean- ing and sanitizing as well as maintenance on the recommended schedule, Voss says. Sedlak recommends using a flashlight for

a visual inspection to inspect after a cleaning and before the machine is turned back on.

Around and about In the kitchen, Sedlak says, there should be an air gap under the machine’s drainage to ensure there’s no backup into the machine. In the kitchen and out of it, watch what

you store around ice bins. A drink or clean- ing fluid set on top of or beside the bin can easily end up inside. Broken glass is another hazard, notes the ServSafe program of the National Restaurant Association—particu- larly when glasses are improperly used as ice scoops.

Special considerations “Ice machines for health care facilities are addressed in a guidance document pub- lished by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engi- neers (ASHRAE),” Voss says, accredited by the American National Standards Institute. But there’s an additional guidance docu-

ment, ANSI/ASHRAE STANDARD 188- 2018. It is designed to minimize risk of the Legionella bacteria. This document “instructs to use non-carbon filtration, so chlorine is not removed, which can in turn help con- trol slime and build-up on the inside of ice machines,” Voss says.



The National Restaurant Association’s ServSafe program offers best practices for ice service. To see them all, visit Operations/Churn-out-sanitary-ice- at-restaurants.

• Remove ice with a designated scoop. Never capture ice directly with bare hands or a glass.

• Separate ice for drinks from ice used keep food cold. If your restaurant stores food or beverage containers on ice, ensure that staff knows that it should not be used for drinks. Pathogens from containers can infiltrate the ice.

• Store the scoop outside the ice supply. Laying an ice scoop inside an ice machine or in an ice-filled bin can introduce pathogens.

Take Good Care of Your Ice Machine By Sara Wildberger


ServSafe® certification is widely respected in the industry; the program’s training, resources, and exams are created by food service and regulatory experts. Argentum’s partnership with the National Restaurant Associations’ ServSafe program means members are eligible to receive a 10 percent discount on resources to prepare for the ServSafe certificate examination. Visit to learn more.

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