EDITOR’S VIEW: BBC’s annual ice exposé shows operators are their own worst enemy sometimes

There are certain things that happen in the industry with such regularity you can almost set your clock by them — one of which is operators being caught out by the BBC’s Watchdog programme for suspect hygiene practices when it comes to ice.

From what I can tell, the broadcaster doesn’t even have to work very hard for its money — it simply sends somebody into a number of well-known food outlets to buy iced beverages, tests samples of the product at a laboratory and then wheels out a health expert to pour scorn on operators for falling short of their responsibilities when evidence of contamination is inevitably discovered.

Chains such as KFC, Costa and Starbucks have all found themselves in the firing line during the last two years and, over the past week, some of the country’s biggest cinema chains had just been added to the list of scalps as well.

Soft drinks from Cineworld, Odeon and Vue were tested in 30 cinemas for the BBC One show, with seven branches found to have sold drinks with “unacceptable” bacteria levels — in one case it was a staggering 10,000 times higher than what is deemed acceptable.

So why does it keep happening? Ice machine suppliers have been vociferous in pointing out the simple measures that can be taken to prevent ice from being contaminated, noting that it is often down to operating practices.

That begins with the most obvious step of ensuring staff are washing their hands, picking up ice with scoops, and cleaning and sanitising storage bins on a weekly basis. There are even video guides for these things.

“With all the information available, there’s simply no excuse for poor hygiene,” according to one leading ice machine expert this week.

Best practice begins at the operator’s front door. Diligence really is the best policy for anyone that fears the BBC coming knocking.

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