How to avoid faecal bacteria in pub ice machines

By Nikkie Sutton

- Last updated on GMT

Frosty conditions: keep ice equipment clean and safe (credit: Peerajit/iStock/
Frosty conditions: keep ice equipment clean and safe (credit: Peerajit/iStock/

Related tags Hygiene

Ice machine suppliers have issued advice to help pub operators ensure ice equipment is safe from bacterial contamination.

The tips follow a BBC Watchdog ​investigation, which found bacteria from faeces in ice used in three top coffee shop chains – Costa, Starbucks and Caffè Nero.

Hubbard Systems, which markets the Scotsman range of ice machines said it was time for a crackdown on poor hygiene practices that lead to the issue.

The company’s technical and aftercare manager Mark Stebbings said: “It’s not like we haven’t seen this before.

“Every year for as long as I can remember, the issue comes up and, every year, ice machine suppliers point out the simple measures that need to be taken to sort it out."

He added: “There are loads of online resources that can help anyone looking for guidance on cleaning ice machines.

“With all the information available, there’s simply no excuse for poor hygiene.”

Preventing bacteria growth

Hubbard has issued the following advice for clean ice:

  • Keep hands clean – staff should always wash their hands before and during service.
  • Keep the machine clean – by following the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions. Ensure you empty, clean and sanitise the storage bin on a regular, weekly basis.
  • Don’t pick up the ice with your hands – use a scoop.
  • If your machine is fitted with an anti-bacterial system, change the anti-bac every month.
  • Have a maintenance schedule for the components that need regular cleaning because it will help keep your equipment in peak condition.

Ice machine supplier Hoshzaki has also released advice for operators on hygiene.

It said: “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 their machines are as refined as possible and their dealers and distributors are well informed in the installation, care and servicing requirements necessary to maintaining the highest quality.”

Purchasing tips from Hoshzaki are:

  1. Select a machine with a tight fitting ice storage door, complete with a gasket or seal
  2. Look for an ergonomically designed ice bin with rounded corners and with all areas visible and accessible.
  3. Look for a machine offering a rise and flush cycle between each ice cycle, helping to eliminate water residues.

Maintenance tips include:

  1. Ensure all staff are aware of the dangers of contamination and understand how to prevent them.
  2. Empty the ice bin completely at least one a week to clean and sanitise with a proprietary cleaning fluid and to rinse thoroughly.
  3. Ensure all objects in contact with the ice – such as scoops, tongs and buckets – are also clean.
  4. Move ice storage vessels away from customer reach.
  5. Make regular checks to ensure the machine is in good condition – especially the ice storage door.

Personal hygiene is biggest problem

Equipment supplier Maidaid Halcyon has also issued advice on ensuring a safe and clean machine when it comes to the ice storage bins and stressed the importance of personal hygiene.

The company said: "Ice storage bins are just as important to maintain as the machine itself. The bin should always be cleaned and sanitised on a regular basis.

"The biggest problem any establishment will face that causes contamination to the ice is personal hygiene.

"Contamination can occur when staff come into contact with the ice and even more so when the ice is handled. This could happen from using the ice scoop or any other device to remove ice from the storage bin and then placing the scoop back in the ice bin after handling."

Foodservice Equipment Marketing (FEM), which is the master distributor for Manitowoc Ice products in the UK, believed it had the solution to solve any unhygienic issues with its Saf-T-Scoop from San Jamar.

Mark Hogan of FEM said: “Ice hygiene is regularly in the spotlight. As well as being a major food safety issue, the bad press can have a huge impact on business.”

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