Two Huge Places For Contamination and How to Stop It

Written by Emily Mirren, Communications Officer, Spaceman USA

Ice machines and commercial soft-serve machines must be carefully maintained to ensure the safety of patrons.

The first lesson that everyone learns when they enter a professional kitchen is to wash their hands. Cleanliness is essential to prevent food-borne bacteria, mold and other microorganisms from making people sick and spoiling food. Governments have enacted many rules for how clean a commercial kitchen to ensure safety.

Two places in the kitchen that get missed a lot are ice machines and commercial soft-serve machines. The cold in a refrigerator only slows down the growth of bacteria. It doesn’t kill it. In an ice machine there’s plenty of water for bacteria. A little neglect can lead to a bloom in the ice bin, which will lead to sick customers and a visit from the health inspector. Employees should never use their hands to get ice but even misusing the scoop can be a vector for contamination. Biofilms in ice bins are a common source for losing points in restaurant inspections.

Soft-serve machines and other dairy product machinery are especially prone to bacterial contamination. Humans have used special strains of bacteria for millennia to make cheese and other dairy products. There are plenty of other microbes that would love to set up shop and make us sick or make your frozen dessert taste bad. How do you keep up with all the invaders? Regular cleaning and sanitization must be done.

Workers must be aware of the two sources of information for how to clean a machine. First, the cleaning and maintenance instructions inside the owner’s manual must be followed. The manual will tell you the proper way to clean and sanitize the machine, how often it must be done, and which parts you’ll need to replace over time. Part replacement is important not just for your warranty, but to prevent leaks that can give microbes a way into your machine.

The second source is local health codes. Every city has its own rules on how often machines must be cleaned, how often inspections happen and what is tested. Sometimes cities like Los Angeles provide recommended cleaning procedures. You may also be required to submit samples for lab testing every so often. All the more reason to stay on top of your cleaning.

You must learn what is required by your municipality. If there is conflicting information between the health codes and your owner’s manual, go with the stricter rules. Better safe than sorry. Keeping your machines clean does more than prevent food poisoning. A clean machine makes a tastier product.

How do you keep track of cleanliness? The best way is to have your managers keep a record of every time a machine is cleaned and keep a checklist of what needs to be done. Have employees initial when they cleaned the machine. This can provide valuable documentation to cover your business and also find out who isn’t doing their job properly. If you haven’t already started doing this, start today. Your food will be much better for it, your customers will be healthier, and you won’t have to pay for an expensive shutdown if you do get inspected.