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Ice Safety

Posted By KRHA, Tuesday, December 13, 2016
Ice may not be caloric or a line item on your restaurant menu, but it is consumed by your restaurant guests and comes with a variety of food safety challenges.  The proper handling of ice is a food safety process that is easy to overlook.  It is important to have procedures in place that ensure your machine is properly maintained and sanitary.  In addition, you have to ensure your staff is properly handling ice to prevent contamination. 


To reduce the risk of ice being a source of foodborne illness, restaurant operators and managers should be aware of the following points and conduct regular self-inspections to identify problems:

  •  When preparing drinks, never capture ice directly with bare hands or a glass.Instead, use a designated scoop and avoid letting any part of the handle touch the ice.  Ice is considered a ready to eat (RTE) food and must be handled using the same guidelines as other RTE products.  
  •  Store the scoop outside the ice supply. Laying an ice scoop inside an ice machine or an ice-filled bin can introduce pathogens. When the scoop is not being utilized, keep it covered and protected from contamination. Both the scoop and the compartment are food-contact surfaces, so clean and sanitize them regularly, as you would tongs for drink garnishes or a cutting board.
  • Designate specific equipment for hauling ice. If you haul a large quantity of ice from one area of your restaurant to another – for example, from the back-of-house to the front-of-house – use food safe bins that are made specifically for this task. Never transport ice in a container that has been used to store chemicals or raw meat, seafood or poultry.
  • Proper handwashing.  There are new tools on the market that are designed to minimize hand contact when handling ice to reduce the potential risk of contamination.  However, that does not lessen the importance of proper handwashing procedures for anyone handling or transporting ice.  Proper handwashing should be a standard procedure for whoever is working with ice.  
  • Keep the door closed.  The door of your commercial ice machine should be kept closed except when removing ice. 
  • Designated storage area for ice machine lids.  If your operation has a soda machine/ice machine combo that requires staff to refill the ice machine, make sure you have trained your staff on the correct procedure to complete this task.  When the lid is removed from the machine, it should be stored in a designated area to prevent possible contamination.  The designated area should be on a countertop and not on the floor.  If your staff is setting the lid on the floor, bacteria is being transferred to the ice machine on a daily basis.  
  • Never use the ice machine as a refrigerator.  Do not store anything such as food, drinks, fruit etc. in the ice machine.  
  • If glass breaks anywhere near an exposed ice supply, dispose of the ice. Glass can strongly resemble ice and cause serious injury to guests and staff. Immediately dispose of the potentially contaminated ice, and clean and sanitize the machine or bin that houses the ice.
  • Separate ice for drinks from ice used to keep food cold. If your restaurant stores any food or beverage containers on ice for temperature control, ensure that staff knows that ice is not to be incorporated into drinks. Pathogens from the food or beverage containers can infiltrate the surrounding ice, which could potentially cause foodborne illness if then served to guests.
  • Clean and sanitize your ice machines regularly. Often moist and dark, ice machines can collect dirt and foster mold; if a health inspector finds either in your machine, a violation will likely be issued to you. Look for evidence of growth or scum, slime or mold inside the machine.  If the growth of mold or slime is observed, immediately clean according to manufacturer's instructions.  Because the machines are considered food-contact surfaces, make sure this is part of your standard operating procures so it is cleaned and sanitized regularly.
  • Routine ice machine service/maintenance.  Commission a licensed plumbing professional to service piping leading into the machine as well as the machine’s drain; failing to do so can lead to harmful backflow.


Ice safety should be part of your food safety protocol.  By following these tips your restaurant, hotel, or bar can ensure the guest you are serving get clean & safe ice.  



The National Restaurant Association provided original content for this blog.  


Tags:  food safety  ice  restaurant management 

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