Jul 12, 2023

Rules for Food Store Ice Machine Safety

Ice machines are a potential hub of bacteria transmission. Whether behind the counter or customer-facing, commercial ice makers are high traffic appliances. Keep reading to learn which ice machines are safer, how and when units should be cleaned, and rules for usage that will reduce ice or ice machine contamination.

Ice machines are typically used for two purposes in food stores such as grocery stores, fish markets, bakeries, and other food-related shops.

Machines located in the back of the store produce ice that is used for cold displays, food storage, and other store needs. Employees scoop ice from the ice bin into transport containers such as buckets, pitchers, or tubs. This type of machine most likely produces flake ice, which is a small, soft cube. Flake ice looks good in displays and can even be used to hold food items in place.

Machines located in a customer-facing area are self-service beverage and ice dispensers. These usually supply modular cubed ice or something similar. Typically, the ice maker is stacked on top of a beverage dispenser, and ice is dispensed via a lever, button, or handsfree sensor. These units may also consist of an ice bin on top of a dispenser; in this case, employees fill the bin with ice from a high-capacity ice maker in the back of the store.

Post these rules near every beverage dispenser and ice machine. Actively train existing and new employees in the importance of adhering to these rules.

Bacteria grows best in dark, damp environments, such as ice bins. If bacteria is introduced to the ice bin, it will grow rapidly, which is obviously a problem for the ice stored in that bin. The rules below are the key to preventing germs from entering the ice bin. Ensure the rules are posted and that employees are trained on how and why to follow them. Provide necessary accessory storage options like hooks for ice transport buckets, a scoop holder, and more.

Cleaning is important both for removing germs and other substances from ice machines, ice bins, and ice dispensers and for modeling to employees an expectation of cleanliness. Hand washing and other sanitary requirements fall flat on the ears of employees who scoop ice from a filthy ice bin each day.

There are two different levels of ice machine cleaning. Deep cleaning is infrequent but more in-depth, involving the cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing of all ice making components plus the interior and exterior of the ice machine and bin. The industry recommendation is at least two deep cleans per year, though some environments may necessitate more. Deep cleaning should be performed by an ice machine technician.

Regular cleaning can be done by store employees and should take place with far more frequency. Regular cleaning includes wiping down, disinfecting, and sanitizing the parts of the ice machine that users touch. Below, we advise on how to perform regular cleaning and how often.

Employees or janitorial staff should disinfect and sanitize ice machines on a regular basis. Cleaning solutions can be mixed from a food grade bleach or another EPA-approved cleaning solution that is diluted with water. The label should indicate the dilution rates for disinfecting and sanitizing. Make a solution of each in spray bottles.

For beverage dispensers, follow the instructions below for how to apply the cleaning solutions to any areas where a customer could touch or a beverage could splash.

For ice machines and ice bins, follow the instructions below to clean the outside of the unit, paying extra attention to high-touch areas like ice bin doors:

There are options when it comes to buying self-serve ice and beverage dispensers. Choose handsfree, or touchless, dispensers. They are safer, because users don’t need to touch the machine to activate it. Instead of pressing a button or depressing a lever to dispense ice, users hold a cup in front of a sensor. Without human contact, the chance of bacteria being transferred to the ice maker is significantly reduced or eliminated.

When food store managers are in the market for a new ice dispenser, a handsfree model is ideal. This type of machine tells customers and employees that their safety is a priority.

Managing an ice machine involves even more than keeping it safe from contaminants. Ice makers are expensive to buy and difficult to keep running optimally. Problems with an ice maker in a food store can upset customers, stall businesses, and put off employees. Choose a quality ice maker and regularly clean, service, and maintain it to maximize the investment.