Food-borne illness is a serious health concern that can make people severely sick. When people think of where food-borne illnesses come from, they are more likely to think about food items like undercooked meat or spoiled dairy products. Thus, it may be surprising to know that ice can also be a source of food-borne illness.
Ice can become contaminated just like food items, and it should be treated like a food item when being worked with. The sources of contamination for ice are the same as food items. For example, ice can become biologically contaminated from incidents such as a Food Handler touching the ice with bare hands. Ice is also subject to cross-contamination from ice machines or the containers it is stored in. Physical contamination can occur from something falling into the ice container, and chemical contamination can occur from cleaning chemicals used on ice machines or storage containers. These are just some of the ways that ice can be contaminated, and illustrates that the proper handling of ice is needed to prevent contamination.
The rules for handling ice
In order to keep ice safe for customers, here are the rules for safely handling ice:
- Always be sure to wash hands using the correct hand washing method before working with ice in any way.
- Use a utensil when working with ice. Never touch ice with bare hands.
- Be sure that utensils used to serve ice, such as ice scoops, are cleaned and sanitised.
- Store utensils used for ice in an area where they will not become contaminated.
- Use specific containers for storing ice and make sure they are properly labelled.
- Always clean and sanitise dedicated ice containers before use.
- Store ice containers upside down when not in use in order to prevent contamination.
- Ensure that ice machines are working properly and are clean.
- Inspect ice machines regularly and perform regular maintenance.
- Do not store items near ice machines that could contaminate them (e.g. garbages, recycle bins, dirty dishes).
- Ensure that ice machines are locked so that they cannot be tampered with.
- Do not work with ice if experiencing diarrhoea, vomiting, nausea or fever.
Food safety training is key
Food safety measures, including food safety training for everyone who works with food, is critical to preventing food-borne illness. Food businesses must ensure that all food workers know the proper way to handle ice in order to keep customers safe and prevent food-borne illness outbreaks. Food safety training is not only good business ethics, but it is a legal requirement for Australian food businesses.
The Australian Institute of Food Safety provides nationally recognised food safety training through the Food Handler course and the Food Safety Supervisor course.