The next time you go to your favorite restaurant, see if you can catch a glimpse of their ice machine. How is the wait staff handling the ice? Does it look like it’s seen a little time on the set of a horror movie? The ice in the machine has the potential to make you sick.
This isn’t to say that you should avoid all ice. Frankly, I love a super-sweet slushy from the corner store every now and then. I’m just saying that creepy crawlies do find their way into ice machines when they get turned off for any period of time.
If you’re working with ice and commercial ice machines all day, there are three things that you can do which will have a HUGE impact on reducing the bacteria, virus, and mold levels in your ice.
Wash your hands
Washing your hands seems like a no-brainer, but there are still people in the food service industry who don’t do it. Our hands are giant bacteria collectors. Not washing properly passes those bugs along.
Clean the Bin
While mold and mildew don’t grow like gangbusters when it’s colder, it still grows. Those bins should get cleaned out as often as possible just to make sure that the ice is being stored in a safe place. For smaller operations, you could also have a combination commercial ice machine and dispenser.
Disinfect the Machine
Some of the higher end commercial ice machines have a self-diagnostic cleaning mode which cleans and disinfects the machine to prepare it for the coming day. If yours happens to have this feature, use it as often as possible to keep the lines clear of debris and contaminants.
Most people have a high tolerance for bacteria, and the effects of contaminated ice from a commercial ice machine might only go so far as an upset stomach. Under the right circumstances with the right tummies, though, there can be more severe side effects. I just wouldn’t want to take the chance.
If you’ve ever gotten sick from contaminated ice, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
Thanks go out to David Smith on Flickr for the Creative Commons use of his photo.