People don’t usually give much thought to the ice that makes their drink frosty. But the data found out ...  

Ice cubes and bacteria:
find out how to protect your customers’ health

A few months ago, a video recorded by an HVAC/R technician went viral on TikTok as it showed the poor ice hygiene in some fast-food restaurants. Over 3 million views, 13k comments and nearly 80k shares. Do not order drinks with ice: this is the suggestion stated by the several newspapers which reported the news at the time. But is this the proper solution to recommend?
Reading Time: 3 min
People don’t usually give much thought to the ice that makes their drink frosty, and this is probably why they got so shocked about the news. The video recorded by the HVAC/R technician @jantheman__, who has more than 160,000 followers on TikTok, shows how dirty the water is in a restaurant ice machine. More precisely, he films a floating layer of brown-coloured dirt: a clear and worrying sign that the equipment has not been cleaned and sanitized for months (or even years). Unfortunately, this is not a case limited to one restaurant and it is a problem that concerns the entire world. Studies conducted by national and global authorities (such as WHO) have found that ice is the major cause of the infections and gastroenteritis contracted during travel in many countries around the world (including Europe). The data found out from an interview conducted by The Huffington Post with Dr. Pritish Tosh (an infectious diseases physician and researcher at the Mayo Clinic) and Martin Bucknavage (the senior food safety extension associate at the Department of Food Science at Pennsylvania State University) are quite frightening. In 2007, the Chicago Sun Times found that the ice used by almost 20% of 49 restaurants and hotel bars in Chicago was contaminated by high levels of fecal coliform. One 2011 study conducted on ice dispensers in Las Vegas food establishments found that more than 72% of the ice samples were “positive for presumptive coliform bacteria presence”. The examples could go on and on, but we probably all agree that it is better to stop here.

The causes of ice contamination

Ice can be contaminated by various species of bacteria (coliforms, enterobacteria, pseudomonas aeruginosa, escherichia coli, etc.) or chemical agents. Both, if ingested, can be harmful to human health and can make your customers sick. Ice contamination occurs for two main reasons:
  • use of contaminated water
  • failure to observe good hygiene practices in the production, storage, handling, and use of ice.

How to keep ice free from bacteria and contamination

“Ice is used as a ready-to-eat food, and like any kitchen appliance or utensil that directly touches food, we have to treat the ice machine in the same way.” Bucknavage’s words should make everybody think about the importance of guidelines to follow for safe and hygienic handling of ice. Here are different useful activities that can be carried out to ensure the production of healthy ice:
  • annually check water potability and, if necessary, install a water filtration system;
  • make sure that the icemaker has the EC declaration of conformity;
  • place the ice machine in a clean place and away from contamination source;
  • store ice in clean containers and make sure that they have been made of materials suitable for food preservation;
  • avoid touching ice with your hands or picking it up directly with the glass, as it may be contaminated;
  • always use clean ice scoops and remember to store them in properly cleaned and sanitised compartments;
  • clean and sanitise the icemaker regularly and rely on professional products only.

About this last advice, Errecom has developed SnowPlow: the professional cleaner for ice machinesSnowPlow guarantees, with its rapid and effective action, a thorough cleaning of industrial and commercial ice machines, removing limescale, mould, residues and descaling the various components (tray, nozzle, and coil). Used constantly, it works preventively, avoiding the development of new incrustations and the growth of algae and mould. The special formulation developed only with tasteless raw materials suitable for indirect food contact makes SnowPlow a safe product; therefore, any small residues do not affect the quality of the ice and are not a danger to human health. In any case, it is recommended to rinse the ice machine after use and to discard the first ice cubes produces. Safe and nonaggressive towards the materials, SnowPlow has been tested not to freeze at the normal working temperatures of the machine.  
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