September is National Food Safety Month, a great time to reinforce, retrain and re-inspect our in-house food safety practices. As foodservice operators and consumers we are much more aware of the importance of proper food safety, and we've seen a dramatic drop in the spread of foodborne illnesses. Nevertheless, according to the Centers for Disease Control, there are still 5,000 deaths, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 76 million illnesses are caused by foodborne illness each year. So there's still room for improvement.
Ice seems pretty benign. But ice, just like raw meat or produce, is a food that requires proper handling. According to the International Packaged Ice Association, the average person consumes nearly two pounds of ice per day, making it a significant factor. The main problem is cross contamination. Bacteria, including Salmonella, E. Coli, and Hepatitis A, chemicals and foreign objects can be introduced into ice in a variety of ways:
- Employees not washing their hands every time they handle ice
- Eating, drinking or smoking around the ice bin
- Using containers that have been used to store food, supplies or chemicals to store or transport ice
- Placing ice too near the floor, exposing it to dirt, bugs, and chemical
- Stacking ice bins which have been sitting on a dirty floor inside of one another
Here are some simple training points to cover in your next pre-shift briefing and add to training materials so that all employees know how to safely handle ice:
- Always wash hands before handling ice.
- Transport ice only in plastic bins labeled "Ice Only".
- Do not nest ice bins inside of one another.
- Only use an ice scoop — never use your hands or a glass — to serve ice.
- Don't leave the scoop in the ice bin. Store it on a clean, dry place outside of the ice.
- Cover ice bin when ice is not being dispensed.
- Store all ice used for consumption at least six inches above the floor.
In addition, be sure to clean all machines, bins, scoops and other utensils regularly to avoid a build-up of bacteria, slime or mold. Machines should be cleaned once a week, and utensils and scoops should be sanitized at least once a day. Remember, heat will kill bacteria. Cold will not.
To keep this top-of-mind with employees, we've made a downloadable list of these ice safety pointers to print out and post wherever ice is used.