Food-borne illnesses arise from consuming a food that is contaminated with dangerous bacteria, viruses or parasites. The symptoms of food-borne illness can range from mild to severe, with some people needing to be hospitalized in certain cases. Food-borne illness is a serious health concern that must not be taken lightly by anyone that works with food.
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. Just like food, ice can be contaminated through biological, physical, chemical or cross-contamination. Some examples of contamination include:
- biological contamination by a Food Handler touching the ice with bare hands
- cross-contamination from ice machines or the containers it is stored in
- physical contamination from something falling into the container storing ice
- chemical contamination 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 safe ice handling
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 sanitized.
- 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 sanitize 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 diarrhea, vomiting, nausea or fever
Food safety training is essential
Handling ice safely and properly is just one of the food safety measures that all Food Handlers should know. Anyone who works with food should be trained in food safety, including safe ice handling, in order to prevent food-borne illness incidents in a food business. Keeping food safe for consumption is key to running a successful and lawful food business.
The Canadian Institute of Food Safety is a trusted provider of the nationally recognized Food Handler Certification Course.