Ice Machine Maintenance

Bacteria growing in a dirty ice machine

The importance of Ice Machine Maintenance.

A recent investigation by the BBC Watchdog programme has again highlighted the need for proper ice machine maintenance in pubs & restaurants throughout the UK.

In its findings the programme identified that bacteria in such high concentrations, and the presence of coliforms, could indicate failings in cleaning standards – and may even represent a potential risk to health, particularly for people with a weakened immune system.

From its sample of taken from 50 popular pub & restaurant chain outlets, Watchdog found very high levels of bacteria classed as ‘too high to count’ in the ice in six branches of Hungry Horse, three Slug and Lettuce pubs, two Harvesters.

Bacteria growing on the inside of a dirty ice machine
Bacteria growth on the inside of a dirty ice machine.

Expert Tony Lewis of CIEH explains in the programme that coliforms and faecal coliforms are likely to have come from human contact, for example dirty hands. The other bacteria found can come from a number of sources, including growth in storage and dispensing systems.

He said: “Ice is like any other food. We consume it, we ingest it, it goes into our stomachs, into our guts, and if it’s loaded up with the wrong type of bacteria then it can make us ill. So that’s why this is a concern. On the basis of the chains that we’ve looked at, industry needs to do better, making sure that their cleanliness is being well managed.”

Bacteria growing in a dirty ice machine that is clearly visible to the user
Bacteria growth clearly visible to the user.

Sadly, these reports continue to make the national news headlines just months after coliforms and traces of faecal bacteria are found in the ice at numerous high street outlets:

Dirty ice machine tray
Would you serve your customers ice from here?

Proper cleaning and sanitation of ice machines are necessary to keep bacteria at bay. It is essential that the proper time and care are taken with commercial machines to prevent bacteria from forming. 

Microbial growth can cause biofilm or slime buildup inside commercial ice-making machines. 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.

And it’s not just from a sanitory standpoint that you should have your ice machine maintained;

Many regions of the UK have water with a high mineral content which can cause a build up of limescale. Over time this condition causes internal blockages of pipes, nozzles and spray bars that may warrant a costly service call that is not covered under the manufacturers warranty. 

Limescale buildup inside a pipe reducing the pipe's internal diameter
Limescale buildup inside a pipe.
Limescale buildup inside a pipe bend reducing the pipe's internal diameter

Limescale buildup inside a pipe.

These problems can all be overcome with the correct Preventative Planned Maintenance (PPM).

PPM of refrigeration equipment is an important part of any food retailer’s operation. It can prevent costly repairs and down-time of equipment, it can prevent bad press of the likes above and it also forms part of your legal requirements under the F-Gas regulations.

Torr Engineering can ensure you are compliant with your obligations under F-Gas, we can prolong the life of your valuable assets, we can minimise your down-time and lost revenue and we can ensure you are serving your clients ice that is fit for human consumption. 

For more information or a free no-obligation quote, contact us here.