It can be surprising to think that ice can “go bad.” After all, ice is often used to keep other foods and drinks safe.
“The reality is that dirty ice machines were citied 20 percent of the time on health inspections in 2019,” says Ecolab’s Mandy Sedlak, principal regulatory specialist and food safety and public health manager for EcoSure. She has the Registered Environmental Health Specialist/Registered Sanitarian (REHS/RS) credential from the National Environmental Health Association.
Ice is considered a ready-to-eat food and thus subject to cross contamination—for instance, an ice container should never be put on the floor while you’re filling it up. And dirty ice doesn’t always look like you’d expect—mold in an ice machine can be pink, yellow, or brown. Just over a month ago, a number of senior living communities in one metro area were listed for ice violations.
Seniors can be more susceptible to foodborne illnesses, Sedlak notes. The most common method of killing potential germs—heat—can’t be used with ice, obviously. And with more communities holding parties and enjoying outdoor dining, ice safety best practices could use a refresher.
Quality starts with the ice machine, and the machine’s operation starts with the water quality—and water quality means filtration, says Peter Voss, senior research, development, and engineering program leader, water solutions, at Ecolab.
“The appropriate filtration program in place with scale control and ensuring that filters are being changed on a regular schedule can help to extend the life of the machine and decrease maintenance costs,” Voss says.
Cleaning is also the guideline for when it’s time to replace a machine or its parts. Chips, breakage, or rust—anything that interferes with thorough cleaning—means it’s time for something new.
But operators can also help avoid costly replacements by adhering to a monthly cleaning and sanitizing as well as maintenance on the recommended schedule, Voss says.
Sedlak recommends using a flashlight for a visual inspection to inspect after a cleaning and before the machine is turned back on.
In the kitchen, Sedlak says, there should be an air gap under the machine’s drainage to ensure there’s no backup into the machine.
In the kitchen and out of it, watch what you store around ice bins. A drink or cleaning fluid set on top of or beside the bin can easily end up inside. Broken glass is another hazard, notes the ServSafe program of the National Restaurant Association—particularly when glasses are improperly used as ice scoops.
“Ice machines for health care facilities are addressed in a guidance document published by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE),” Voss says, accredited by the American National Standards Institute.
But there’s an additional guidance document, ANSI/ASHRAE STANDARD 188-2018. It is designed to minimize risk of the Legionella bacteria. This document “instructs to use non-carbon filtration, so chlorine is not removed, which can in turn help control slime and build-up on the inside of ice machines,” Voss says.
Get updates on the latest news impacting senior living through our Argentum Daily newsletter.