The Sanitation of Ice-Making Machines

How can you avoid contamination of ice with coliform organisms? This can be a serious problem because the contaminants can be spread easily into crushed ice in many ways, mainly by debris from the floors of freezing rooms, trucks, and restaurants along with by reusing soiled containers and through human hand contact.

It took another 15 years for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to issue a publication in which epidemiologists traced several outbreaks of gastrointestinal sickness—including noroviruses—to the use of contaminated ice.

However, ice is no distinct from food or water when viewed as a comestible. However, you can find differences between ice and potentially hazardous foods. Even though the temperature of ice is nicely within the “safety zone,” ice machines are prone to microbial contaminants. Yet clean, potable water can be dirty ice in ways that may not be readily noticeable.

Ice is so common and its use is constant and universal, we often see ice substantially exactly the same way we do water. The assumption is that both water and ice are clean, with the latter simply being an extension of the tap.

Controlling Ice Contamination

Tube ice SnowkeyConsidering the acknowledgment of ice as a way to obtain microbial contaminants, science has given us a better comprehension of biofilm production and its control. Biofilms are a group of microorganisms, primarily bacteria, growing together in a matrix of polymers secreted by the microorganisms. The related slime formation is mold or fungus that accumulates from bacterial growth on surfaces always exposed to clinging water drops and warm temperatures. The biofilm may cause objectionable flavors and scents in ice. After well-developed biofilms establish themselves on surfaces, cleaning and sterilization become substantially harder. Biofilms have a shielding effect on the bacterial cells that dwell within them. It is well known that normal cleaning and sanitizing approaches may not control or eliminate biofilms, but rather they must be physically removed or prevented from forming on surfaces.

Producers of ice machines maker recognize the biofilm phenomenon and have engineered units that minimize its formation and ease its removal. Clean ice, clean ice storage bins, and sanitary handling practices are the key to enhancing the product quality.

In addition, manufacturers report that 70 percent of ice machine functionality problems are connected with the water supply, through poor water quality, slow fill or insufficient water supply, and have acted correctly to cope with these difficulties also. All manufacturing companies now provide customers with invaluable tips on choice and operations.

Flake Ice machine for grocery and supermarketWhen ice machines are inspected, it’s clear that many aren’t cleaned and sanitized quite often, if ever. Mold and slime build-up inside them is rather observable. Numerous studies reveal that dirty, polluted ice is more common than people think.

As the ice-making machine has changed, so have the laws governing ice used for human consumption. This mandates ice to the same management and cleanliness standards as everything else in retail food, including manufacturing equipment.

The bottom line is that cleaning and sanitizing the ice machine on a regular basis is required by law, whereas operations and maintenance in accordance with manufacturer’s’ recommendations draw out the ideal life of the unit and help minimize the risk of contamination.

There are several common-sense guidelines that should be followed to prevent liability problems connected with contaminated ice in addition to sticking to manufacturers’ recommendations on cleaning and care.

The sanitary treatment of ice. All workers who manage ice should be taught the following precautions:

  • Wash hands before getting ice.
  • Hold the ice scoop by the handle and don’t touch other areas of the scoop.
  • Don’t manage the ice with hands.
  • Don’t return fresh ice to ice storage chest or ice machine.

Flake ice snowkey for vegetables preservationThe sterilization of gear. The next practices should be part of the facility’s operations:

  •  Keep the access doors to ice storage chests and ice machines shut except when removing ice.
  • Ice scoops should be smooth and protected against contact with contaminated surfaces like floors, access door handles, service carts and non-food contact surfaces, to cite a few examples. Scoops should be kept in an uncovered stainless steel, impervious plastic or fiberglass tray when not in use. The tray and scoop should be cleaned daily in the kitchen scullery dishwasher.
  • Remove all extraneous equipment and things from around or in the ice storage chests and ice-making machines, and if possible, limit access to them.
  • Clean the ice storage chests on rather a weekly program, but no less than monthly.
  • Consider regular microbiologic sampling of the ice and ice contact surfaces of the machine. Although this really is not needed, it can supply guidance on cleaning frequency and methods.

Snowkey produces a clean, stable, sanitary ice suitable for human consumption. Snowkey is a leading ice machine makers in Australia, not to mention not only in Australia but also in other countries. For more information about ice machines, visit Snowkey website at If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us on 1300 423 423 or send an email to