According to FDA regulations, ice needs to be stored and handled like food, and that means ice machines need to be regularly cleaned. Food Law 2009 Chapter 4 specifies that ice machines must be cleaned and sanitized at the frequency recommended by the manufacturer, which is generally at least 2 to 4 times per year. Depending on your usage volume, the location of the machine, and the water conditions, you may need to clean it more often. For very heavily used units located near a cooking line, you may need to clean the machine as often as every month.
It’s easy to overlook the risks associated with a lack of ice machine maintenance, since we don’t tend to think of ice as food. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), however, does define ice as food. Ice is handled by your staff and ingested by your customers, and it can spread illness just as easily as other food sources if contaminated by viruses, bacteria and mold. And if your ice is contaminated, you won’t even know it until it’s too late. Your ice could look, smell and taste just fine, but still be harboring dangerous microorganisms. And don’t forget, keeping your ice machine clean is required by federal law. If you’re found to be in violation, you could be hit with fines of up to $500,000.
Related article: This Ice Machine Cleaning Checklist Could Save Your Restaurant.