How clean is your ice ?

Like most catering establishments you probably serve ice with your drinks. Unless you purchase fresh bagged ice on the regular, you’ll use an ice machine to produce and store ice. However, are you aware of the potentially harmful bacteria and coliform that you may be adding to your ice?

A recent watchdog investigation has found traces of Bacteria and faeces in the ice of the top UK high street pubs. The top 5 pub chains – Harvester, Hungry Horse, JD Wetherspoon, Slug & Lettuce and Marston’s Two for One had high levels of bacteria found in the serving ice.

The bacteria and faecal matter found in high levels pose a potential health risk, a similar investigation revealed the same type of bacteria and faecal matter in the ice of high street coffee chains like Starbucks and Costa coffee.

How the harmful substances are spread into the ice

According to the Institute of environmental health, the coliform is likely to a have come from human contact, like un-clean hands, highlighting the importance of following proper hygiene procedures as well as the use of, cleaning and proper storage of serving utensils.

The bacteria, on the other hand, was likely to come from other sources such as growths in storage dispensing systems, for example, the inside of an ice machine compartment. As well as this, bacterium may be introduced into ice machines if the water supply is not properly filtered first.

How to prevent the risk of harmful matter in your ice machine

Most harmful bacteria do not readily multiply below 8°c, however, some certain bacteria and viruses can survive freezing for many hours and remain capable of growth especially when introduced to strong alcoholic drinks (which are mainly served with ice) It is therefore vital that ice does not become contaminated with airborne particles, food handlers or dirty utensils, as well as ensuring adequate cleaning of the ice making equipment and good hygiene practices when handling ice.

Water Supply:

Attach ice machine to the water mains

1. The ice machine should be connected to a direct water system and not an external water source e.g. a water storage tank.

Use a water softnener in hard water areas

2. Dependant on your areas water supply you may need to use a water filter to clear out any harmful particles and bacteria in the water. Ensure that the water softener you are using is designed specifically for ice machines.

4 level treatment water softener

3. Ensure your water filter features a 4-level treating process to ensure ice is bacteria free. Our specially designed water filter features this application.

Another point of using a water filter is that it prevents the build-up of limescale deposits in your ice machines water systems. Limescale deposits create the perfect place for bacteria to grow.

Machine Location:

Ensure proper location.

1. The ice machine should be situated in an area that is free from dirt and dust, preferably off the ground and away from any source of heat.

Ensure proper location.

2. There should be sufficient space and ventilation around the machine to allow for proper air flow.

Keep the ice machine lid closed

3. Restaurants and bars are busy places, ensure the lid is kept closed to avoid contamination when you don't need to collect ice.

Machine Cleaning:

Clean ice machine storage bin

1. The ice storage compartment must be cleaned regularly. Removing the ice, clean the storage compartment thoroughly using a cleaning and disinfectant agent.

Do not return ice to the storage bin

2. The ice that is removed from the machine when cleaning should be disposed of and never returned to the ice machine.

Clean the exterior of the machine regulary

3. Ensure the exterior of the machine is cleaned regularly especially using a sanitiser on the areas that come into contact with human hands.

Handling, and Storage of ice:

Clean hands thoroughly

1. Users should thoroughly wash and dry their hands before going to collect ice, using an anti-bacterial hand soap.

Always use clean untensils for collecting ice

2. The ice should always be collected using a clean utensil i.e. a scoop or tongs. Ice should NEVER be collected by hand.

Don't store ice scoop in storage bin

3. Once the ice has been collected, the utensil used must not be left in the ice storage compartment. Instead, it must be placed in a container of food safe sanitiser solution which should be regularly changed.

Serving ice a bucket:

Use a stainless steel bucket

1. If you have to serve ice in something other than a glass, use a stainless steel bucket, the material makes it easy to clean and disinfect after use.

Use a lid on the ice bucket

2. If ice is transferred to a bucket for use by the bar, they should have lids to prevent exposure to airborne particles.

Don't store ice scoop in storage bin

3. Any ice not used up must be NOT be returned to the ice machine and instead thrown away.