Hey Bartender! – Can I have another.. safe drink

Three ice cubes on white background.

There is nothing like relaxing with a well-made drink, but they need to be handled safely like foods from the kitchen. Ice is to be considered as a food – it melts into your drink – and there are steps and precautions to take.

Starting at the Ice Machine, the bin and machinery need to be cleaned periodically. I am always amazed at the amount of funk that can be found in something that only is exposed to clean fresh water. Take a flashlight and look inside the bin and the underside of the machinery. Over time, black mold and slime starts to develop on the surfaces and edges. A trick to get a better look is to reach your cellphone behind the drop chute to take a pic. Just make sure your hands are clean and do not let your un-sanitized camera touch any ice or surface. Many machines have an easily removed drop chute that can get a good cleaning & sanitizing.  Work with your Refrigeration expert on routine cleaning. How often depends on the amount of ice is used, and humidity of the area. Another area for mold is where condensation forms on the inside of the door on plastic doors. Dust and debris buildup where the door hinges against the bin. These areas need regular cleaning as well.

Ice buckets and scoops – Scoops need to be stored in a holder, not left in the ice or on a counter. The best is in a mounted holder that drains, but a pan is acceptable. Place a screen in the bottom of the pan, so that the scoop does not contact the water that accumulates in the bottom. Both need to be cleaned of mold and slime regularly.

Ice buckets – DO NOT use empty food buckets. They are usually filled up on the floor, then stacked when done. The stacking of buckets contaminates the ice. Purchase and use non-stackable buckets specifically made for ice. They have hooks to hang on the side of the ice bin when being filled – keeps them off the ground. They also need to be stored inverted. This allows any water to drain, and prevents stray objects from falling in. If the ice buckets start to crack and chip – discard and purchase new ones.

At the bar, my favorite type of ice bin is one with a sliding cover, but open bins are still common. A frequent violation that is easily avoided are ice scoop handles in the ice. Install or designate a holder for the ice scoops, and work with all staff to use these holders at all times. Using the cup itself to scoop the ice is not the right way either.  Another violation is storing chilled bottles and supplies IN the ice that is being used for drink making. In a perfect world, having a bin that is only used for chilled bottles and another for drink ice is great. However, if you must place bottles in bin with ice, use a separator to keep the bottles from touching sanitary ice. Never store bottles in the ice machine either.

Lastly any server that uses the glass itself to scoop ice needs to be retrained ASAP. If a glass breaks or chips, the broken glass is virtually un-noticed in an ice bin… until your guest gets a cut.

To learn more detail about Food Safety procedures, or to set up an independent discounted audit of your facility, please contact Peter Bellisario of PeterBFoodSafetyAudits.com at peter@peterbfoodsafety.com  or (808) 491-7766. Check out my website –  www.PeterBFoodsafety.com

Peter Bellisario


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