Advice for Caterers on keeping Ice Safe

28 June, 2017
Julia Wilson

Ice from three of the UK's biggest coffee chains has been found to contain bacteria from faeces, according to a BBC investigation.

Samples of iced drinks from Costa Coffee, Starbucks and Caffe Nero contained varying levels of the bacteria, the BBC's Watchdog found.

Seven out of 10 samples of Costa ice were found to be contaminated with bacteria found in faeces, 3/10 in Caffe Nero and 3/10 in Starbucks.

Faecal coliforms are opportunistic pathogens and should not be present in ice. A very high percentage of faecal coliforms are made up of E.coli which is an excellent indicator for faecal contamination as it is found in the faeces of all warm-blooded animals including humans.

Ice is classed as a food and must be made, stored and handled hygienically. It can be contaminated for a number of reasons including:

  • unsafe water used to make ice 
  • the machine itself is contaminated
  • because of poor hygiene when handling and serving the ice. 

The following steps should be taken to ensure that ice is made and handled safely:

Ice Machines


  • Ice machines should be located in a clean area away from dirt and dust.
  • Only ice should be stored in the ice machine.
  • Scoops must not be stored in the machine
  • Scoops should be washed and sanitised frequently and should be replaced regularly.  They should be stored outside the machine in a clean container with handle up. An ice scoop holder attached to the side of the machine could be used.
  • Hands should be washed prior to scooping ice and the scoop handle should not come into contact with the ice.  A cup or glass or hands must never be used to scoop the ice
  • Ice machines must be cleaned and sanitised regularly – at least weekly following the safety instructions given by the manufacturer.  The ice storage compartment should be cleaned and sanitised and ice removed during this process.  Any ice removed must not be put back
  • Only suitable sanitisers that are taint free should be used in accordance with your chemical supplier and usage instructions.
  • Ice machines and door seals should be regularly checked for mould and slime and if this is seen the machine must be cleaned and sanitised immediately. You should review your cleaning schedule and increase the cleaning frequency to prevent further issues
  • Hand contact surfaces of the ice machine particularly door handles must be sanitised regularly

Ice Buckets/Containers


  • Ice containers should be clean, lidded and labelled so they are only used for ice storage
  • Only small amounts of ice should be bought out of the machine at a time and customers should not be allowed to serve their ice themselves.
  • Ice remaining in buckets must be thrown away and never returned to the ice machine

If you have any concerns regarding ice safety/ ice machines in your premises please contact Acoura for information on our services including microbiological testing of food and ice served in your business.  Please contact us on 01438 745 771 or

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