If you’re not regularly emptying, disassembling, cleaning, and sanitizing your restaurant ice machine, you’re taking a serious risk that can lead to sick customers and loss of business. Restaurant ice bacteria is a serious problem, here in the United States and even across the pond. In fact, a study conducted in 2013 found that 6 out of 10 of the most popular eateries, the ice served to customers contained more bacteria than in the toilets. Here in Phoenix, that’s probably a likely scenario for the majority of restaurants as ice machine cleaning and maintenance are at the lowest end of the priority spectrum. Frankly, we just don’t think about it often, if at all.
Is Your Restaurant Ice Bacteria Free?
What’s more, it hits closer to home. The University of Nevada, Las Vegas also conducted a 2011 study of local food establishments, finding heterotrophic bacteria levels much higher than acceptable standards set forth by the Environmental Protection Agency. Researchers found a “presumptive coliform bacteria presence,” in a stunning 72 percent of samples. The fact of the matter is, ice machines must be sanitized regularly. The cleanliness of your restaurant must be a top priority.
Since the recognition of ice as a source of microbial contamination, science has given us a better understanding of biofilm production and its control. Biofilms are a collection of microorganisms, mainly bacteria, growing together in a matrix of polymers secreted by the microorganisms. The associated slime formation is mold or fungus that accumulates from bacterial growth on surfaces constantly exposed to clinging water drops and warm temperatures. The biofilm may cause objectionable flavors and odors in ice. Once well-developed biofilms establish themselves on surfaces, cleaning and sanitation become much more difficult. —Food Safety Magazine
The problem with such maintenance is its complexity. You can’t just dump out the ice and clean the reservoir. While this might help, ice machines require a more comprehensive protocol in order to be free of such harmful things as minerals, mold, and viruses. To prevent such contaminants from being in your restaurant ice, you’ve got to regularly check the water pressure, the temperature, check the controls and the wiring, and all other functioning parts. In addition to this, to keep restaurant ice bacteria free, you must do the following:
- Power off the ice machine. Turn the power off to the ice machine and empty it completely. Then, disconnect the power supply to be able to work without risk of shock or electrocution.
- Disconnect the water supply. Next, you’ll have to turn off and disconnect the water supply to the ice machine. Inspect the connectors for any corrosion or fungus growth. In addition, look into the hose, using a flashlight to see if there’s any build-up inside.
- Disassemble and clean the entire unit. You should now completely disassemble the unit and inspect every part for corrosion or fungus. Then, clean every single part with a nickel-safe cleaner. Don’t use any other type of cleaner because it will damage vital parts and the machine might have to be replaced.
- Flush the water system thoroughly. Run clean water through the water system, then, circulate cleaner through the water system to ensure that it’s free of bacteria, mold, and any corrosion.
To finish, use commercial solution or bleach to disinfect any parts which come into contact with water. When done, wash your hands thoroughly to avoid contaminating parts and reassemble the unit. Reconnect the water and power supply and turn the unit on. Allow the first batch of ice to be made, then throw it out to avoid serving cleaning solution contamination. If you need assistance and want to avoid hefty fines, give us a call and we’ll send an experienced technician out.