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Ice Baby, Do You Take Ice Seriously? … For Real

We always think of food being the cause of foodborne illness … but have you ever considered that your ice could make people sick? One food safety source stated once 48 percent of ice after being tested contained fecal matter. Gross!

We have to stick to the basics on ice “food safety” obviously and always use potable (drinkable) water for our ice machines. Safety alert: We should always scoop ice with a clean and sanitized ice scoop not our “dirty hands,” nor a ‘glass’ glass. The scoop with the NSF stamp of approval must be always be put back in the clean sanitized container outside the ice machine. This makes sense as our dirty hands have touched the handle and we wouldn’t want to put it back directly on the ice. Putting the ice scoop directly back on the ice becomes the same concept as when we used to serve peanuts in a bar from a bowl shared with everyone. The unfortunate matter is that many people still don’t wash their hands often enough, properly, or at all. Safety alert: Following the four-hour rule in the Temperature Danger Zone, your ice scoop is a serving utensil and should be cleaned and sanitized or replaced every four hours at a minimum during your work shift.

I always tell my students that they should schedule the duty of emptying out the ice machine and cleaning and sanitizing it on their master cleaning calendar. Additionally, I mention that if they do have a problem with their water coming out dirty after a water shutoff or plumbing issue, that besides emptying the ice machine and cleaning and sanitizing it … safety alert: they must also flush the pipes that brought the water to the machine. That ice machine kept working during the water emergency and continued making ice with the dirty water and you have to flush the pipes, too.

Sometimes we make mistakes and just don’t realize it because we are so busy and “weeded.” For example, how many times have you seen an employee scoop your glass in the ice machine to put more ice in the glass for refills? Crazy! Safety alert: Please use an ice scoop to refill glasses and be careful to not let the ice scoop touch the rim of the dirty glass. I think good customer service and good food safety rule, is just to provide a clean glass for the refill.

Safety alert: Please don’t use your ice machines to keep your bottles of water, soda bottles or wine bottles cool. You don’t know what is on the bottle surface. Same concept, safety alert: If you use ice to keep food cool, please don’t use the same ice in drinks.

Here’s an odd situation that one of my students told me about recently. He explained that in their job, they get several buckets of ice at one time. Then they stack the buckets of ice inside each other on the floor. Sigh, safety alert: Please don’t stack ice buckets full with ice inside each other. Please clean and sanitize them after using them or placing them on the floor. You don’t want the dirty bottom of the bucket touching the ice on the top of the next bucket.

Did you ever think that your ice might have a shelf-life, just like your other foods? Your ice should be disposed of if it has started to melt.

Ice is a food. If you purchase it in bags – you should purchase it from an approved food source … which means the packaging will be properly closed, have the product code for traceability as well as have the manufacturer’s name, address and phone number on the bag in case of a recall. Safety alert: Don’t use snow or icicles from outside as a result of snow storms.

I know we get busy and “weeded” in real life, but take a moment and realize that your ice can make people sick. The cold will not kill the virus or bacteria associated with foodborne illnesses.

Keep it safe.

About the Author

Juliet Bodinetz is executive director of Bilingual Hospitality Training Solutions and has over 30 years industry and training experience. Her team of instructors’ specialty is food safety, alcohol training and ServSafe training in English or in Spanish and writing HACCP Plans in the Baltimore and Washington D.C. area. www.bilingualhospitality.com, juliet@bilingualhospitality.com or 443-838-7561. For latest food safety tips: Like on Facebook or Twitter: @BHTS

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