Although not always recognised as such, ice is actually a food. The ice-maker that creates it is a food production machine, meaning that hygiene is as crucially important as functionality. Poorly made, inappropriately stored or incorrectly handled ice can become a source of food poisoning.
The most common form of ice contamination occurs after the ice has been manufactured. Dirty ice scoops or ice buckets leave much to be desired. Few of us would opt to eat food that has been through a poor handling process, and the same is relevant for ice. Despite its clean appearance, ice can easily harbour micro-organisms in the same way foodstuff does. Using the ice bin as a secondary storage fridge can also pose a risk, and we sometimes see people using the ice-holding bin to cool items such as champagne bottles, soft drinks containers, or even packaged sandwiches.
Often, food service operators are untrained in handling ice, despite other working practices being fit for food safety.
The only potential sources of danger at the ice manufacturing stage are water and air. It is therefore imperative to protect against the harmful effects of both. The placement of an ice-maker is vital; too often, they are slotted into any available space, such as damp cellars or unventilated areas, where air quality is at its poorest and bacteria most plentiful. If this is the only option for placement of the machine, it is crucial that the ice-maker has a suitable door, rendering it completely airtight. Water must also be potable and from an adequate source to ensure that the ice being made is fit for consumption.
Without good insulation, free bacterial growth can develop in ice storage bins. This manifests itself as a slimy deposit which, unfortunately, is usually incorporated into the ice bin contents because of the abrasive action of the cubes as ice is collected.
Water is already pre-treated with chlorine to reduce bacteria levels, but water that is held in an ice machine for any time can become dangerous. Although no machines re-use melted ice any more, old water can become trapped in some machines, providing the right conditions for bacterial growth to appear. To prevent the possibility of this occurring, Hoshizaki's IM ice-makers are pre-programmed with a unique, automatic rinse and flush which operates after every cycle to ensure all old water is removed and that the new cubes are made from completely fresh water.
Furthermore, Hoshizaki machines make ice using an advanced closed cell jet system which, because it is a very precise method, has the advantage of reducing humidity in the machine.
Thorough day-to-day housekeeping, regular machine maintenance, and personal hygiene are the most important factors when it comes to preventing bacteria growth. Reputable manufacturers will have ensured that their machines are as refined as possible and that their dealers and distributors are well-informed of the necessary installation, care, and servicing requirements.
Hoshizaki has offered basic guidelines on purchasing:
- Select a machine with a tight-fitting ice storage door, complete with a gasket or seal.
- Look for an ergonomically designed ice bin with rounded corners, and with all areas visible and accessible.
- Look for a machine offering a rinse and flush cycle between each ice cycle, thus helping to eliminate water residues.
Hoshizaki has also provided the following maintenance advice:
- Ensure all staff are aware of the dangers of contamination and understand how to prevent it.
- Empty the ice bin completely at least once every week to clean and sanitise with a proprietary cleaning fluid.
- Ensure all objects in contact with the ice, such as scoops, tongs and buckets, are clean.
- Move ice storage vessels away from customer reach.
- Make regular checks to ensure the machine is in good condition, especially the ice storage door.
Hoshizaki’s IM range is unique and designed with hygiene as a priority. The plastic water plate is automatically rinsed after every cycle to ensure that each ice cube is absolutely free from contaminants. Fresh water is then used for the next cycle. IM machines also feature easy-access air filters, making cleaning a simple process and maximising performance. The IM range produces exceptionally hard, crystal clear ice, ideal for keeping drinks cooler for longer, while the newly-launched Emerald Class IM range has even more benefits in that it uses natural hydrocarbon as a refrigerant, which helps the environment while dramatically reducing energy bills.