Drinking water is expected to be clean free of contaminants in our homes and public places. Recent incidents have identified water supplies that have not been properly monitored and treated to prevent unsafe drinking water, resulting in heightened awareness of potential sources of biological and chemical contamination.
But, what about the ice? It may come as a surprise that ice machines can be hosts to a range of mold, bacteria and algae colonies. Without frequent cleaning and disinfection, the ice will come into contact with contaminants that remain on the ice surface in the storage bin and into a beverage. This happens at restaurants, hotels and in homes.
The best way to avoid biological contamination is to remove the source, rather than wiping away the symptoms in both the ice making components and the storage bin. This has been a difficult process requiring physical effort, chemicals and timing to ensure that sufficient ice is available when it is needed.
Frequent inspection and maintenance of ice machines is important, and public health department visits include ice machine contamination as part of routine inspections.
Here are some things to keep in mind for maintaining an ice machine.
First thing to know is to NEVER put your hands into the ice. Don’t even touch the ice after washing your hands. It’s the same rule as food preparation. Use a clean utensil that is stored outside of the ice bin. Never store items in the ice.
The Second thing: Disinfect the ice machine frequently. The U.S. Army’s procedure is here. This should be done monthly, or on a schedule that requires observation and record keeping. Include ice machine disinfection on maintenance schedules.
There are 2 parts to keep disinfected; the holding bin and the ice-making equipment. If the bin contains contaminated ice, empty it out and wipe the area down with a disinfectant (NOT bleach due to potential for harming metallic surfaces). Remove any residue and resume ice production. Customers don’t want to taste chemicals any more than they want to ingest mold and algae.
What about the Ice Making Equipment?
Ice making is a common source of contamination. Here are some images of typical ice machine fouling, which comes into contact with each cube of ice produced. There are a range of bacteria that survive in the cold environment, including Listeria, Salmonella, E. coli, Shigella, and even legionella outbreaks in hospital ice machines are becoming fairly common.
There is likely a mat of biofilm, with mold and algae that serves as a host for bacteria. Biofilm is difficult to control, and it serves to protect bacteria very effectively. Biofilm is often called bio-slime, which regrows rapidly in moist environments. after being wiped away. Despite the cold environment, the moist environment is ideal for many forms of biofilm.
There are certain models of ice machines with a “cleaning cycle”, but they do not disinfect the equipment, and do not effectively eliminate biofilm and associated bacteria. Stopping ice production to thoroughly clean a machine requires good timing to ensure that ice will be available in the hours ahead when quantities of ice are required.
Health inspector’s check ice machines first, and many restaurants receive violations on the inspection form.
Here is an ice machine success story.
HydroFLOW uses a specific frequency that is carried by water throughout a system for controlling bacteria, biofilm and scale. It works on a range of water management devices, but has an ideal set of characteristics for ice machines.
A popular restaurant chain in the Dallas/ Fort Worth area installed HydroFlow on an ice machine that exhibited pink and black slime despite frequent cleaning. As a way to measure effectiveness, one panel was removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, while the left side panel remained as a control for 30 days.
When the machine was inspected 30 days later, the right side panel had no biofilm or discoloration, while the left side “control panel” had no biofilm either. The HydroFlow prevented new contamination while removing existing bacteria. The restaurant installed HydroFLOW water conditioners in all of their restaurants with no complaints or problems. The patented HydroFLOW frequency extends throughout the water system and prevents new biofilm from attaching. Bacteria has nowhere to grow or hide.
In fact, the National Restaurant Association awarded HydroFlow the 2015 New Innovative Product Award due to its effectiveness.
HydroFlow electronic water conditioners control bacteria and scale without the use of chemicals. Electronics have improved our lives in many ways, while reducing costs and physical effort. HydroFlow is patented, effective and operates on less than $10 of electricity per year. It has no moving parts and operates 24/7 to control bacteria and scale in our water.
HydroFLOWs are easy to install in minutes, require no cutting of pipes or interruption of production. HydroFLOW reduces water use, chemicals and energy. The health benefits from clean water and ice in restaurants, hotels and in people's homes are greatly enhanced by this unique and patented technology.