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Ice Is A Food!


[posted October 11, 2013]

"Ice Safety" equals "Food Safety"…

Essentially, ice should be treated with the same safety protocols and procedures as any food item.

The FDA Food Code defines ice as a food item. All ice that is consumed or that is used as a cooling medium must be made from drinking water (Section 3-202.16). [] In other words, the ice needs to be as safe to consume as any other food item. Packaged ice, if made in one state and sold in another, is regulated as a food, as well. []

Treat your ice the way you treat your food.

Foodservice businesses should create a Sanitation Plan and Schedule that includes ice production, transfer, and disposal. []

Ice Production

Commercial Ice Machines in restaurants around the world, particularly in fast food restaurants, have been found to produce ice contaminated with bacteria. Some restaurants have higher bacteria levels in their ice than in their lavatory toilet bowls. In the UK, tests determined that McDonald's, Burger King, KFC and Starbucks branches were not regularly cleaning their ice machines. In China, KFC and McDonald's branches were found to be not sterilizing their ice machines and ice storage equipment. [] In Florida, a middle school student's science project discovered ice samples from several fast food restaurants tested positive for E. coli bacteria and had higher bacteria levels than the toilet water tested from the same restaurants. [] The likely explanation for the dirty ice is that the ice machines were not sanitized regularly, while city water that supplies toilet water to the restaurants is sanitized.

Frequency of ice machine cleaning must be considered and incorporated into your Sanitation Plan and Schedule. Ice Machine location impacts how often the machine will need cleaning. For example, foodservice establishments with heavy traffic and high volume of ice usage, along with constant use of ice bins, will require more frequent cleaning.

Ice Machines located in foodservice operations where bread is made (specifically where yeast is used), will require the most frequent and regular cleaning because of the yeast spores that are present in the air. The yeast will find the dark, moist corners of the ice machine and will proliferate without constant vigilance.

When preparing to clean your ice machine equipment, as a backup, consider bagging or storing enough ice for a typical day's ice requirements (Use clean scoops, sanitized bins and proper gloves and hygiene when transferring ice).

In your Sanitation Plan, be specific about whose responsibility it is to manage the cleaning of the ice machine equipment, such as a manager or employee.

Then follow the ice machine manufacturer's recommended procedures for cleaning the ice machine and any storage equipment. If the machine needs to be taken apart to be cleaned, be certain to follow the exact steps for doing so, or consider hiring an ice machine professional to handle this procedure. Also note in your Sanitation Plan the specific cleaning and sanitizing product names and brands.

Some additional recommendations when cleaning your ice machine equipment include discarding leftover ice, cleaning gaskets, upper surfaces, and the inside surfaces of doors and panels, and shine a bright light inside the equipment to inspect for residual contamination. [] Include details like these in your Sanitation Plan.

In addition to cleaning ice making and ice storage equipment, be certain to regularly change out your water filter, per the manufacturer's recommendation. Any water source being utilized for the production of ice which will be in direct contact with food or will be directly consumed by customers in beverages should be a filtered water source. To keep that water which is transformed into ice as clean as possible, your water filtration system needs to be properly maintained.

Properly cleaning your ice machine and doing so on a specific and regular schedule will prevent your ice from becoming contaminated. Ultimately, you are feeding your customers ice the same way that your are providing their meals, so take care to use proper procedures to keep customers healthy.

Ice Handling and Transfer

Follow the same personal hygiene procedures you would for handling food items when handling and transferring ice. Specifically include the personal hygiene requirements in your Sanitation Plan.

Note: employees who are sick or display symptoms of illness possibly caused by microorganisms must not work around food or with ice, which will limit the risk of contamination of items consumed by customers.

Never touch ice cubes with your bare hands, even if properly washed. You would never pick up chicken wings with your bare hands and place them on a customer's plate or in a to-go container, so don't do it with their ice. Always wash hands, then utilize non-permeable gloves when handling ice.

Train employees to wash hands properly before putting on gloves that will be in contact with ice tongs, ice scoops, ice tote handles, ice bucket handles or even ice bin doors (which typically press up against stored ice, coming into direct contact with the ice). []

Never touch or scoop ice with dirty utensils, used containers (such as glasses), or hands.

Since you would never use dirty tongs to handle salad or cut a cake with a dirty knife (your guests or customers will thank you not to), you should handle ice with the same care and consideration for the person who will be receiving the ice. Use clean utensils to handle ice, such as dedicated ice tongs or ice scoops. Note: Ice scoops must be plastic (such as a polycarbonate material) to be certified by NSF for ice handling. Wash, rinse and sanitize ice scoops regularly.

All ice transfer containers such as totes, buckets, tubs or coolers need to be clean and sanitary. The handles of these containers must also be clean and sanitized. If a gloved hand grasps the handle of a tote and then that gloved hand touches ice, if the handle has not been properly cleaned, then the exterior of the glove has been contaminated. You may as well not be wearing the gloves. So be certain to fully clean not only the interior of totes and buckets but the handles as well.

Never use ice totes or ice buckets to "scoop" ice from an ice bin or cooler. The outside of the ice tote or bucket is considered contaminated and the action of scooping places the outside of the bucket in direct contact with ice that remains in the bin. All remaining ice would be considered contaminated.

Note that tongs, scoops, totes, buckets, tubs and coolers should be properly cleaned and sanitized on a regular basis, just like ice machine equipment. Set up a schedule for their cleaning and include this in your Sanitation Plan. Also note specifically where these ice handling utensils and containers will be stored when not in use. Placing any of these items on the floor or other non-sanitized surface will contaminate them, so be certain to train employees to store them in drawers or shelves away from possible contamination.

Discard cracked scoops, broken totes or other ice transfer tools to prevent unsafe materials such as plastic pieces from entering your ice supply. []

Ice Disposal

Ice that comes into direct contact with food items ready for consumption must be as safe as drinking water, according to the FDA Food Code. Ice used to as an exterior coolant to cool food in containers must also be safe. However, once it touches food or containers, it is considered contaminated and should be discarded after use. (Section 3-303.11-12) [] Ice that is used to cool foods or beverages must never be utilized in drinks or consumed:

1. Ice that has come into direct contact with raw meat or raw vegetables must never be consumed. Any melt water from ice that has come into contact with such food items must be considered contaminated and any storage or display container that the melt water touches should also be considered contaminated. The contaminated melt water should discarded and the containers need to be sanitized.

2. Once ice has been touched by the outside of a food or beverage container, it is considered contaminated and unsafe for consumption. For example, do not allow the ice used in buffet food displays for keeping bowls or plates of food items cool to be consumed.

3. When keeping beverages cold in a large ice bin or tub for display, such as bottles, cans, juice boxes and pouches, or self-serve drink pitchers, the exteriors of the beverage containers are considered contaminated. Since the ice being used to cool them is coming into direct contact with the containers, the ice therefore should not be consumed.

Ice used in ice baths to rapidly cool food items such as soup and stock in pots or other cooked food should be discarded when the food has reached the safe zone temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit. As the temperature of the food decreases and as ice melts in the bath, drain the water and add fresh ice. Since it has come into contact with cookware or food containers, discard all ice when the ice bath is complete. []

Note: Ice supplies for buffet displays where food directly contacts the ice (such as raw fish, poultry, fruits or vegetable items) should be kept separate from ice used under bowls or plates to keep items cool.

Buffet food items only last 2 hours on display, even if on ice, before the food must be discarded anyway after the 2 hours. Change the ice under food items and under food bowls or plates several times in order to keep the food cool for the 2 hour period. []

Broken scoops or ice totes can potentially leave small pieces of plastic in your ice supply. If a scoop or ice tote is discovered to be broken, all ice that has come into contact with that utensil or tool should be discarded.

Try to instill an environment of vigilance when it comes to Ice Safety in your establishment. Proper training of employees will help them spot potential issues before contamination or worse, customer illness, happens. Include things to look out for in your Sanitation Plan and Schedule.

Sanitation Plan and Training

Be certain to be as specific and detailed as possible in your Sanitation Plan. Identify whose responsibility it is for each task. Then train employees in those steps of the plan that they are responsible for. Train employees how to wash hands and proper ice handling procedures. Post the Sanitation Plan and Schedule and regularly confirm employee adherence to the Plan and Schedule. Conduct regular refresher training sessions.

In following the Ice Safety procedures stated in the Sanitation Plan, you and your employees will prevent possible contamination of ice and protect your customers' health. Your customers will be able to enjoy their experience in your foodservice establishment when both ice and menu items are treated as food, with the same consideration for safety and sanitation.