Article contributed by Easy Ice
Food store customers and employees are aligned on one thing: they want to know stores are taking every safety precaution to limit the spread of germs. Many store policies now reflect more frequent and thorough sanitation procedures and efforts to prevent bacteria transfer.
Ice machines are a potential hub of bacteria transmission. Whether behind the counter or customer-facing, commercial ice makers are high traffic appliances. Keep reading to learn which ice machines are safer, how and when units should be cleaned, and rules for usage that will reduce ice or ice machine contamination.
Types of Ice Makers in Food Stores
Ice machines are typically used for two purposes in food stores such as grocery stores, fish markets, bakeries, and other food-related shops.
Machines located in the back of the store produce ice that is used for cold displays, food storage, and other store needs. Employees scoop ice from the ice bin into transport containers such as buckets, pitchers, or tubs. This type of machine most likely produces flake ice, which is a small, soft cube. Flake ice looks good in displays and can even be used to hold food items in place.
Machines located in a customer-facing area are self-service beverage and ice dispensers. These usually supply modular cubed ice or something similar. Typically, the ice maker is stacked on top of a beverage dispenser, and ice is dispensed via a lever, button, or handsfree sensor. These units may also consist of an ice bin on top of a dispenser; in this case, employees fill the bin with ice from a high-capacity ice maker in the back of the store.
Rules to Post Near Grocery Store Beverage Dispensers
Post these rules near every beverage dispenser and ice machine. Actively train existing and new employees in the importance of adhering to these rules.
For Your Safety and the Safety of Others, Please Follow These Rules:
- Sanitize your hands before and after using this drink machine.
- This is not a drain. Do not dump any beverage into the tray unless it comes from this dispenser.
- Do not put food of any kind in the tray.
- Do not refill used cups. Use a new or clean cup every time.
Grocery Store Ice Bin Rules
Bacteria grows best in dark, damp environments, such as ice bins. If bacteria is introduced to the ice bin, it will grow rapidly, which is obviously a problem for the ice stored in that bin. The rules below are the key to preventing germs from entering the ice bin. Ensure the rules are posted and that employees are trained on how and why to follow them. Provide necessary accessory storage options like hooks for ice transport buckets, a scoop holder, and more.
For Employee and Customer Safety, Please Follow These Rules
- Do not leave scoop in the ice at any time. Store ice scoop in holder or in designated spot.
- Do not leave ice shovels inside the ice bin. Hang up shovels to store.
- Always sanitize or thoroughly wash hands before scooping ice from the bin.
- Wear a mask when scooping ice from the bin.
- Never eat or drink while scooping ice from the bin.
- Shut the bin door immediately after use.
- Do not stack ice transport buckets. Hang or store them off the ground on a shelf.
- Never scoop ice with the bucket, a glass, a pitcher, or with another container. Only remove ice with the scoop.
Cleaning Grocery Store Ice Machines
Cleaning is important both for removing germs and other substances from ice machines, ice bins, and ice dispensers and for modeling to employees an expectation of cleanliness. Hand washing and other sanitary requirements fall flat on the ears of employees who scoop ice from a filthy ice bin each day.
There are two different levels of ice machine cleaning. Deep cleaning is infrequent but more in-depth, involving the cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing of all ice making components plus the interior and exterior of the ice machine and bin. The industry recommendation is at least two deep cleans per year, though some environments may necessitate more. Deep cleaning should be performed by an ice machine technician.
Regular cleaning can be done by store employees and should take place with far more frequency. Regular cleaning includes wiping down, disinfecting, and sanitizing the parts of the ice machine that users touch. Below, we advise on how to perform regular cleaning and how often.
Ice Machine Cleaning Instructions
Employees or janitorial staff should disinfect and sanitize ice machines on a regular basis. Cleaning solutions can be mixed from a food grade bleach or another EPA-approved cleaning solution that is diluted with water. The label should indicate the dilution rates for disinfecting and sanitizing. Make a solution of each in spray bottles.
For beverage dispensers, follow the instructions below for how to apply the cleaning solutions to any areas where a customer could touch or a beverage could splash.
For ice machines and ice bins, follow the instructions below to clean the outside of the unit, paying extra attention to high-touch areas like ice bin doors:
- Spray or wipe on the disinfecting solution and leave it on for at least 10 minutes. Continue to apply more disinfectant as needed to ensure the surface is wet the entire time. After 10 minutes, thoroughly rinse away the solution with water. This is very important, as disinfectant could contaminate ice if left on the ice maker.
- Next, spray or wipe on the sanitizing solution. Continue to apply the sanitizer to ensure a two-minute wet contact time. No need to rinse this one, let it air dry on the surface.
- The ice dispenser drain may become clogged or contaminated when foreign beverages (especially milk) or solids are poured down it. Remove any solids that block the drain, then pour un-diluted cleaning solution (e.g. bleach) into the tray. This may be needed daily or weekly depending on how often users misuse the tray.
Choose the Safest Ice Making Equipment
There are options when it comes to buying self-serve ice and beverage dispensers. Choose handsfree, or touchless, dispensers. They are safer, because users don’t need to touch the machine to activate it. Instead of pressing a button or depressing a lever to dispense ice, users hold a cup in front of a sensor. Without human contact, the chance of bacteria being transferred to the ice maker is significantly reduced or eliminated.
When food store managers are in the market for a new ice dispenser, a handsfree model is ideal. This type of machine tells customers and employees that their safety is a priority.
Prioritize Customer and Employee Safety
Managing an ice machine involves even more than keeping it safe from contaminants. Ice makers are expensive to buy and difficult to keep running optimally. Problems with an ice maker in a food store can upset customers, stall businesses, and put off employees. Choose a quality ice maker and regularly clean, service, and maintain it to maximize the investment.