Microbial Quality of Ice Machines and Relationship to Facility Inspections in the Toledo, Ohio, Area
Ice might contribute meaningfully to foodborne illness. Ice machines and ice scoops can be contaminated by microbial pathogens, resulting in people consuming contaminated ice. Typical of most states within the U.S., in Ohio assessments of ice machines and related equipment are part of mandated food service facility inspections by local health agencies. These visual inspections, however, might provide insufficient protection from microbial contamination. To explore the potential for disease transmission, we conducted microbiological surveys of ice throughout the Toledo–Lucas County Health Department service area in Ohio.
We regularly found microbial contaminants, mostly nonpathogenic bacteria and fungi, within ice machines. The relative abundance of bacteria and fungi was significantly greater on the gaskets of ice machines than on ice machine bin walls or ice scoops. Microbial contamination of ice machines did not vary significantly by facility hazard potential class or inspection results.
The regular nature of microbial colonization of ice machines indicates that a meaningful potential exists for disease transmission. The nature of the colonization suggests that pathogenic contamination should not be present routinely, but rather occur sporadically. Management strategies could benefit from moving beyond visual inspection, to considering adoption of routine cleaning programs and implementing other barriers to microbial colonization.
Speaker / Author:
Hailu Kassa, MSOH, MPH, PhD, Bowling Green State University
Brian Harrington, MPH, PhD, University of Toledo
Karim Baroudi, MPH, RS, REHS, Hancock Public Health
Gary S. Silverman, D Env, RS, University of North Carolina at Charlotte