BEST PRACTICE: Avoid making your ice machines a dirty secret

Ice

Although not always recognised as such, ice is actually a food and the ice maker that makes it is food production machine which means that, as well as functionality, hygiene is crucially important as poorly made, stored or handled ice can potentially become a source of food poisoning. Here’s ice machine manufacturer Hoshizaki’s operator guide to ice hygiene.

Bad practice

The most common form of ice contamination occurs after the ice has been manufactured. Dirty, unsanitised ice scoops filling a rarely cleaned ice bucket placed on top of a bar top for customers to help themselves leaves much to be desired. Few of us would eat any food that had been through such handling process, yet the deceptively cool, clean appearance of ice diverts our attention from the micro-organisms it can so easily harbour.

Another dangerous practice which is not uncommon amongst people who are scrupulous in every other area of good hygiene, is to use the ice bin as a secondary ‘fridge’ storing bottles and even food – and here it is only education that will improve matters. These areas can, of course, be rectified by following proper procedures, but contamination can also occur within the ice maker itself and this can be caused by poor hygienic maintenance and lack of servicing.

Machine design

The only potential sources of danger at the ice manufacturing stage are air and water and it is therefore imperative to protect as far a possible against the harmful effects of both.

The siting of an ice maker is important. Too often they are slotted into any available space – typically damp cellars or other unventilated areas which are where the environment is at its poorest and aero bacteria are most profound. If this is the only option it is important to ensure that the ice maker has a tightly fitting door, rendering it airtight.

Without good insulation free bacterial growth can develop in ice storage bins. This manifests itself as a slimy deposit, which, unfortunately, is usually incorporated into the ice bin contents because of the abrasive action of the cubes as ice is collected.

Water is already pre-treated with chlorine to reduce bacteria levels, but water that is held in an ice machine for any time can become dangerous. Although no machines re-use melted ice any more, old water can become trapped in certain machines, providing the right conditions for bacterial growth to appear.

So what can conscientious bartenders do?

Thorough day to day housekeeping and regular maintenance, in combination with a high quality machine, are the most important factors. Reputable manufacturers will have ensured that their machines are as refined as possible and that their dealers and distributors are well informed in the installation, care and servicing requirements necessary to maintaining the highest quality.

The basic guidelines are:

PURCHASING

  1. Select a machine with a tight fitting door compete with a gasket or seal.
  2. Look for an ergonomically designed ice bin with radiused or rounded corners and with all areas visible and accessible.
  3. Avoid any machine that has interior joins, cracks or crevices in the ice bin.
  4. Look for a machine offering a rinse and flush cycle between each ice cycle, thus helping to eliminate water residues.
  5. Demand a substantial warranty. If a manufacturer is confident in a machine’s quality, this will be provided automatically.

MAINTENANCE

  1. Ensure all staff are aware of the dangers of contamination and understand how to prevent it.
  2. Empty the ice bin completely at least once every week to clean and sanitise with a proprietary cleaning fluid such as Milton and rinsed thoroughly.
  3. Ensure all objects in touch with the ice – such as scoops, tongs and buckets – are also treated.
  4. Move ice storage vessels away from customer reach.
  5. Keep regular checks to make sure the machine is in good condition – especially the door, as broken or loose fitting doors are one of the most common faults to occur on ice makers.
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