Cleaning Ice Machines


Can Your Ice Make Your Customers Sick?

Cleaning the ice machine seems to be on everyone’s “one of these days” list. Unfortunately, waiting to maintain your machine can inadvertently lead to sick customers.

Ice Machines that are not cleaned regularly and thoroughly can cause the spread of nasty germs like Salmonella, Listeria, E. coli, Shigella, and the Norwalk virus.

Did you know that microbial growth can cause biofilm or “slime” buildup inside commercial ice-making machines?

What are Biofilms?

Biofilms are a collection of microorganisms, mainly bacteria, growing together in a matrix of polymers secreted by the microorganisms. Once microbes grow into well-developed biofilms, cleaning and sanitation become much more difficult.

Biofilms have a shielding effect on the bacterial cells within them, and normal cleaning and sanitizing methods may not eliminate them. Biofilms MUST be removed or prevented from forming on surfaces.

Disease-producing bacteria, including Listeria, can be 1,000 times harder to eliminate if it is living in a protective biofilm. Biofilms can be very difficult to remove from surfaces, and are known to have an increased biocidal resistance due to the biofilm structure protecting the microorganisms. Biofilms can be a continual source of pathogenic and spoilage organisms if not completely removed.

Spoilage organisms such as Pseudomonas grow in biofilms and can be sloughed off during production, contaminate the food, and accelerate spoilage. The polymers secreted by the bacteria close to the surface are strong adhesives making the cells very difficult to remove.

From the JIFSAN Good Aquacultural Practices Manual
Section 9–Effective Cleaning and Sanitizing Procedures. Copyright © 2007 University of Maryland and the JohnsonDiversey Corporation

Just running the cleaning cycle on your machine is not enough. The Ice Man will remove and manually clean biofilm from the parts that automated cleaning does not reach.

People Really DO get sick

In one incident alone, over 5,000 people fell ill from the norovirus after consuming contaminated ice.

Just because ice is frozen, doesn't mean it cannot contain harmful bacteria or viruses. You can get very sick from contaminated ice.

In fact, at the University of Texas, Salmonella, E. coli, and Shigella all survived in a study of ice cubes mixed with a cola drink, scotch and water, or 85 proof tequila! Viruses also survive in ice cubes, so our food borne illness leader, the noroviruses (the famous Norwalk virus), can wreak havoc in the frozen crystals. Click here to read more.

Samples from nearly 50 restaurants and hotel bars in Chicago (Dec 2007), found nearly 20 percent had high levels of fecal contamination. Water samples taken from a restroom toilet showed less bacterial contamination than the ice from 21 of the restaurants and bars sampled. Click here to read more.

When ice machines are inspected, it is clear that many are not cleaned and sanitized very often, if ever. Mold and slime build up inside them, bacteria grows and your ice becomes contaminated. Numerous studies show that dirty, contaminated ice is more common than people think.

So the bottom line is: clean that machine!


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