Let’s start with the basics of safe ice handling – water filtration. Everyone knows that ice is 100% water, but somehow there is a disconnect when it comes to thinking of ice and water as essentially the same thing. While it is important to understand that water touches or is a part of literally everything in a restaurant (dishes, soups, sauces, coffee, etc.) ice is the only food item – yes, I said food – that is 100% water. Luckily, industry professionals have created ways for foodservice operators to monitor water filtration in real time. This creates a smaller margin of filtration error, but it is not foolproof. Here are a few quick things to keep in mind about water filtration:
- The use of an effective filtration system can increase the longevity of the equipment. Removing harsh chemicals and sediment from the water softens it. Therefore, it will not corrode the stainless steel or any other material in the kitchen as quickly.
- Guarantees guests a better-tasting drinking water.
- Ensures ice is clean, safe for patrons to consume, and does not affect the flavor of the drink it is served in.
So now that we have water filtration squared away, let’s talk about safe ice handling. Proper ice handling is of the utmost importance to restaurants to ensure that they are meeting health and safety codes and providing their customers with the best quality of ice possible.
Ice is food. Yep, that’s right. In 2016, the FDA released this statement resolving the age-old question “Is ice a food or a drink?” and officially attaching some rules and regulations to its handling. In addition to explaining ice-handling standards, the article states, “It can be shaved, cubed, nuggeted, and crushed. It can be made from tap water, from spring water, or from purified water. But no matter the shape or the source, ice is considered a food by FDA.”
A few things restaurants can do to ensure that their ice machines are up to standards:
- Educate their employees on safe ice handing practices (see below).
- Ensure the room has good ventilation.
- Make sure a professional is deep-cleaning the ice machine at the rate the manufacturer suggests.
… and now, a comprehensive list of safe ice handling practices for restaurants to implement today:
- Do not scoop ice with a bar glass or bowl. Scoop ice with the ice scoop and the ice scoop only.
- About that scoop… Store it outside the icemaker. Not inside.
- Oh, and one more thing: only use that scoop for ice. Just ice. Nothing else.
- Never use “storage ice,” or ice that is used to keep food chilled (think oysters, shrimp cocktail), as beverage ice.
- If glass or plastic breaks near the ice maker, empty and dispose of all the ice. Following this, deep clean the ice machine before it is reloaded and used again.
- Unlike boiling temperatures, freezing temperatures will not kill all microorganisms that can cause the spread of bacteria or mold. In fact, in some cases it can preserve the bacteria and keep it in the ice maker. (See this NPR article.)
- For ice makers in high-yeast areas, like breweries or pizzerias, professional cleaning should occur much more often. If the room is humid, mold can grow more quickly.
Equipment is Key
Keep in mind that the best equipment often yields the best results. Making sure that the equipment is high-quality and committing to great products is half the battle in food safety. The rest consists of educating restaurant staff and keeping up with manufacturer care instructions. A few brands that we know we can depend on are Manitowoc Ice, Hoshizaki, and Scotsman.
While we always have food safety in mind here at Bresco, we are especially passionate about it now as September is National Food Safety Month! Join us, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in encouraging safe food-handling practices through our informational blogs. Help us spread the word about food safety this month and beyond!