Ice: Hygienic Production and Service

National and local surveys have shown how ice, used widely in food businesses, can be unsafe due to contamination. Frozen foods, including ice, can contain harmful microorganisms and also become contaminated, just like chilled foods. Ice has been found to contain a range of microorganisms that indicate poor hygiene, sometimes including E. coli and Coliforms, organisms that can be found in the human gut.

Ice is considered food under food legislation. How you handle ice at your business needs to form part of your food safety management system, including:
  • the quality of the water used to make the ice
  • the cleanliness and condition of equipment used (scoops, ice buckets and ice machines)
  • the way staff handle the ice

Water supply

  • the water used to make ice must be of drinking water quality (potable)
  • ice machines should be connected to a mains water supply and not an indirect tank
  • any ice you make yourself needs to be from a mains water supply

Machine location

  • the ice machine should be sited in an area that is free from dirt and dust, preferably off the ground, away from heat sources and not in dirty cellars or out-houses
  • the area should be well lit
  • there should be sufficient space and ventilation around the machine to allow for air movement and ease of access

Machine servicing

  • follow the manufacturer’s guidance on servicing
  • service any water softeners or filters associated with the water supply according to manufacturer’s instructions
  • it is a good idea to keep records of servicing and maintenance

Machine cleaning

  • the ice storage compartment should be cleaned regularly, at least fortnightly, to prevent the build-up of bacteria, algae and moulds

If the cleaning instructions from the manufacturer are not available, the following procedure is recommended at least fortnightly:

  1. Turn off the electrical supply to the machine
  2. Wash hands thoroughly, as close to the machine as possible
  3. Empty the storage compartment and throw away any ice. Remove any water remaining within the unit using paper towels or clean, disposable cloths
  4. Take out removable parts such as plastic curtains and hooks
  5. Follow the chemical manufacturer’s instructions
  6. Clean inside the storage compartment using hot water and a non-abrasive cleaner or detergent and clean, disposable cleaning cloths
  7. Rinse (checking the drain from the compartment is clear) and remove excess water using paper towel or clean cloths
  8. Using a suitable, food-safe, antibacterial cleaner or sanitiser and paying particular attention to required contact times, clean all internal surfaces of the machine
  9. Wash any plastic curtains and hooks using non-abrasive cleaner or detergent and then soak in a suitable sterilising solution or, clean with food-safe, antibacterial cleaner or sanitiser. Rinse the curtain and hook and put back into the compartment
  10. Clean the outside of the machine, especially the handle and hand contact points
  11. Close the door and switch the machine back on (ensure hands are dry first)
  12. Update your cleaning schedule or checklist by the machine to record cleaning and disinfection

Hygienic handling, storage and service of Ice

The safe and hygienic handling, storage and service of ice is critical to the microbiological safety of the ice.

  • wash and dry hands thoroughly before handling any ice
  • remove ice from the machine (or bag of ice) using a clean, sanitised utensil such as a scoop or tongs (hands should never be used)
  • take ice using equipment designed to prevent the back of the hand or fingers touching the ice
  • never use glass tumblers to move ice because of the risk of glass fragments being lost inside the machine/ bag of ice
  • do not allow customers to put their hands in the ice or serve themselves from ice buckets
  • secure the bag of ice after each use and return the bag to the freezer
  • never return ice to the bag it came in or into the ice machine storage compartment
  • use ice buckets or containers with lids
  • keep ice buckets or containers in a clean place during use
  • clean, disinfect and dry ice buckets or containers daily
  • store scoops and tongs in a clean, covered container
  • never store scoops in the bag of ice, ice bucket or machine storage compartment
  • store the scoop or tongs in a sanitiser solution, made up and changed during the day according to the chemical manufacturer’s instructions. Alternatively, for less frequent use, clean and disinfect the tongs or scoops before each use
  • never use storage compartment or ice buckets to cool or store anything except ice, for example, to cool bottles of wine or beer

Staff training

  • train all your staff in the risks associated with handling ice, your procedures and especially, thorough hand washing
  • it is recommended that you record staff training, the date it took place and get staff to sign to say that they understood the training


  • follow the manufacturer’s instructions before using and cleaning the machine
  • turn off ice machines before cleaning and ensure that staff are trained in the use of the equipment
  • ensure staff are trained in the use of any chemicals or substances

Need more advice?

If you have any queries or comments concerning this guidance, or require any advice on a food hygiene or safety matter, please contact East Cambridgeshire District Council, Environmental Health Commercial Team on 01353 665555 or email