Commercial Cooling systems could be contaminated with mold
A lot of people don’t consider the factors related to the cleaning of commercial ice machines and cooling systems that are used in most fast food restaurants, hotels and even convenient stores. Staff are regularly required to maintain the equipment by cleaning the machines, although the down-time of the equipment may be inconvenient that makes the cleaning schedule change quite often and sometimes not as often as you would think.
Since the Safe Drinking Water Act in 1974, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has done a good job of making sure harmful levels of bacterial pathogens are being kept out of the U.S. water supply. It’s only very rare circumstances in which you should be worried about ice water being dirty from the start. However, EPA inspectors don’t live in ice machines to ensure that the once-clean water isn’t being contaminated during the freezing and dispensing process.
A 2011 study that focused on ice dispensers in Las Vegas food establishments found that 33.3 percent of the ice samples “exceeded the EPA limits set for heterotrophic bacteria concentration for drinking water” and 72.2 percent were “positive for presumptive coliform bacteria presence.” Bucknavage also suggested that it wasn’t uncommon for bacteria to accumulate in ice makers, potentially contaminating the ice.
That said, a restaurant that has bacteria issues in its ice probably has bacteria issues everywhere, making it unavoidable. While there may be occasional concerns about the composition of the ice at some establishments. Especially in the heat of the summers where companies rely on having ice-cold beverages available to the customers upon them walking in the door.
Bucknavage suggested that mold may be the biggest culprit of ice contamination. Mold is too often found in the ice machines of local restaurants, but can grow in home freezers as well. The cold temperatures of freezers may make it harder for mold to grow, but the problems start when freezers are regularly turned off or for extended periods of time. Restaurant owners should make sure to clean their machines several times per year, and Bucknavage advised homeowners to do the same:
“If your freezer [or] ice maker has been off for sometime, that ice maker should always be cleaned before using,” he said. “This can be an issue with people who have a summer home where the unit has been off for a number of months. … People can have a reaction after consuming a slug of mold coming from the ice. Knowing this, the average person should put forth effort to keep their ice machine clean. Why take on risk when a regular cleaning will prevent issues?”
Unfortunately this issue is not limited to just ice machines, but pop machines as well collect just as much bacteria if not more with the amount of people using them, the lack of cleaning that is regularly required to maintain the machines and the constant use of them in 24 hour stores and restaurants. The ice build up on the inside of the machines aren’t regularly cleaned as they continually have a flow of moisture inside them. A 2012 survey found that 1 in every 10 businesses clean the machines out only 7 times a year. It only takes 5 days for the mold to grow inside the machine if it isn’t maintained at its regulated temperatures. This is also found in the same statistics as cooled vending machines that store sandwiches, pudding and yogurts. If you encounter an ice machine, vending machine or pop machine that is moldy let the management know ASAP and document your concern with the health board. All to often people leave these concerns until someone gets sick.