What’s that Pink Stuff?

–by Andrea Moore, EHS

Occasionally while conducting inspections at food service establishments, I’ve encountered pink mold inside ice machines and ice chutes at beverage dispensing machines.  The term “pink mold” or “pink slime” covers several types of slimy stuff that are typically indicators of bacteria and mold growth.  Such growth may appear black, red, green, or other colors, and ice machines can be breeding grounds for it.  For example, food service establishments that cook fried chicken or bake fresh bread can have high levels of yeast in the air. Yeast can then make its way into your ice machine which can create an ideal environment for microbial grow. The interior of an ice machine is dark and damp, and the yeast is an enriched nutrient source which can create an environment suitable for pink mold growth. This mold can then contaminate the ice used in food preparation or consumer drinks. This is why ice machines need special care.

The presence of pink mold, or more accurately, biofilm, means that the microorganisms present are growing at an aggressive level.  Biofilm happens when cells start to stick to each other and to surfaces, thereby resulting in a buildup of bacterial slime. This is why it’s important to clean your ice machine more frequently than twice a year.  It is best to keep your restaurant’s ice machine cleaning schedule up-to-date to keep this dreaded pink slime from developing.

However, if you already see signs of pink mold, it is critical that you do a deep clean of your ice machine.  You may consider hiring a professional ice machine cleaning service to insure that it is properly cleaned, then be sure to start a more frequent cleaning schedule. When routinely cleaning your ice machine, always make sure to follow the manufacturer’s specifications for cleaning and sanitizing your ice machine.  

If growth in the ice machine is observed during an inspection, it is a 4 point violation that is cited under 4-2 B Food-Contact Surfaces: Cleaned & Sanitized on the inspection report, .  Per the Georgia Department of Public Health Rules and Regulations: Food Service 511-6-1.05(7)(b)(5)(iv):

(iv) In equipment such as ice bins and beverage dispensing nozzles and enclosed components of equipment such as ice makers, cooking oil storage tanks and distribution lines, beverage and syrup dispensing lines or tubes, coffee bean grinders, and water vending equipment [shall be cleaned]: (I) At a frequency specified by the manufacturer; or (II) Absent manufacturer specifications, at a frequency necessary to preclude accumulation of soil or mold.

Straight from the Field: Overflowing Dumpsters!

By Parish Divinity, EHS3

While performing a change of ownership inspection at one of my facilities, I saw what was captured in the image posted above. Garbage should not be left on the ground outside of the dumpster. Not only is it an eyesore but it can attract the attention of insects and rodents.  This violation was documented on the inspection report under 17-B, Garbage/refuse properly disposed; facilities maintained.  Per the Georgia Department of Public Health Rules and Regulations for Food Service, 511-6-1.06(5) (p) and (r):

Maintaining Refuse Areas and Enclosures. A storage area and enclosure for refuse, recyclables, or returnables shall be maintained free of unnecessary items and clean.

Frequency. Refuse, recyclables, and returnables shall be removed from the premises at a frequency that will minimize the development of objectionable odors and other conditions that attract or harbor insects and rodents. 

Be mindful to monitor the refuse storage area frequently to make sure that the garbage inside the dumpster is being removed.  This will prevent the buildup of food debris and trash that can attract unwanted insects and rodents. Other tips to help keep the area sanitary include posting a “CLOSE DOOR AFTER USE” sign on the dumpster as a reminder for user,  keeping the dumpster’s drain plug securely in place to prevent the entry of rodents, and arranging to have the dumpster rinsed, as needed, by its service company.

STRAIGHT FROM THE FIELD: ANOTHER BLOG ENTRY ON ICE MACHINES?……YES!

by Casey Saenz, Environmental Health Specialist 3

I was conducting a routine inspection at a bar in my area this week, and I had to do a double take when I glanced inside this facility’s ice machine.  The gallery above will give you a good idea of what I saw!

There are a couple of colors that I have never seen before in an ice machine.  Just to give a quick summary:  “Yikes!”  Those are some scary pictures. 

Please be sure to check the inside and outside of your ice machine on a routine basis.  I check the ice machine during inspections by using the camera on my phone.  I push the reverse symbol to flip the view and put the camera towards the top of the inside (avoiding contact with ice).  Sometimes, I have to scoop out some of the ice to get enough clearance to view the top of the machine’s interior.

If you see that your ice machine needs cleaning, be sure to drain it, take it apart, and clean it as applicable.  It’s always best to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your ice machine.  If you can’t find the manufacturer’s instructions, they are most likely free online if you do a Google search using the make and/or model of the machine.  There are also ice machine cleaning companies that will do this for you. 

This was a violation under 4-2B, Food Contact Surfaces and Utensils – Cleaning Frequency.  Per Cobb County Code: Equipment food-contact surfaces and utensils shall be cleaned: In equipment such as ice bins and beverage dispensing nozzles and enclosed components of equipment such as ice makers, cooking oil storage tanks and distribution lines, beverage and syrup dispensing lines or tubes, coffee bean grinders, and water vending equipment:

(I) At a frequency specified by the manufacturer; or

(II) Absent manufacturer specifications, at a frequency necessary to preclude accumulation of soil or mold.

I am glad that I was able to catch this because now it has been brought to the manager’s attention and, hopefully, has prevented illness from occurring.

Straight from the Field: Another Teachable Moment

By Parish Divinity, Environmental Health Specialist 3

The photo above is a good example of how not to store food contact equipment, utensils, and single service items. As you can see, this arrangement does not allow much room for cleaning the adjacent floors and walls. Additionally, storing items in this manner could provide harborage for a pest infestation (it can even help hide an infestation!).  This was a teachable moment during a change of ownership evaluation where I advised the restaurant owner to store their single use articles at least six inches off of the floor to prevent possible contamination and facilitate cleaning. 

During a food service inspection, this violation would be marked out of compliance on item number 14B – Utensils, equipment and linens: properly stored, dried, handled. If you have some challenged storage areas in your facility, now may be a good time to get them into compliance.

Straight from the Field: Where’s the CFSM?

By Casey Saenz, Environmental Health Specialist 3

Recently, I performed an inspection at a facility that is not located in my normally assigned area, and while looking around the kitchen, one of the first questions I asked the Person In Charge (PIC) was “how often is the Certified Food Safety Manager here?”  [The PIC was not listed as the Certified Food Safety Manager (CFSM) on the certificate posted on the wall.]

The answer was “not very often”.

This question was prompted by the large number of violations that I spotted within the first few minutes of the inspection.  One such violation was an obvious cross contamination violation (see below).  That, along with a swollen bottle of expired salad dressing which was ready for service, made me think that the CFSM is definitely not doing what he is supposed to to be doing–which is ensuring food safety and proper staff training!

canton wings pic

With the most recent updates to Georgia’s Rules and Regulations for Food Service, the CFSM is considered to be ‘key’ to maintaining food safety.  The CFSM not only has the responsibility to ensure that the food is safe for consumption, but he/she also has to make sure that ALL of the facility’s employees are well trained, especially for the times when the CFSM is absent.

This particular restaurant inspection ended with a grade of 70/C, and it may have been low enough to gain the attention of a local newspaper.

Don’t let your restaurant get to the point of no return.  Keep your staff trained and current on food safety practices to help protect your customers from foodborne illness esand limit the possibility of a foodborne illness outbreak.

Please take a minute to read over the How can I prepare my establishment for inspection? document located on our website for duties expected of the CFSM.

Straight from the Field: Did you forget to clean something???

By Casey Saenz, EHS3

During a recent food service inspection, I was examining the ice machine (which is a routine part of an inspection) and happened to notice a small buildup of black mold on the machine’s interior panel.  From past experience, I know that if there is a small amount of mold where I can easily see it, then there’s a good chance that there will be a much bigger beast lurking further inside the ice machine.  To better assess my concerns, I used the camera on my cell phone to take a picture of the upper interior area where the ice drops.  Lo and behold….

Ice machine

This 4-point violation was marked under item number 4-2B (Food-contact surfaces: cleaned & sanitized) on the food service inspection form.

There have been gastrointestinal illness outbreaks from pathogens, such as Norovirus, that have been traced back to the consumption of contaminated ice.  People sometimes forget that ice is a food, just like the ones that are listed on a restaurant’s menu, that can become contaminated with disease causing microorganisms from a contaminated surface or someone’s unwashed hands.  This photo serves as a great reminder to always clean your food contact surfaces on a regular basis, especially the ones that are not very visible!

Straight from the Field: Swept Away!

Broom

A co-worker and I recently inspected a fast food facility, and we noticed that they had a problem with roaches in the kitchen (my co-worker quickly spotted one crawling along an electrical cord).  As we began to inspect other areas of the kitchen, we saw buckets full of grease and food debris along the coved base of the floor, but one thing that really stood out in this roach-saga was their broom and dustpan.  This dastardly “cleaning” duo could easily serve as a well stocked food court for many pests.

We immediately reminded the person in charge (PIC) about the importance of keeping non-food contact surfaces clean, especially as a means to help prevent a pest infestation.  This illustrates the importance of routinely cleaning non-food contact surfaces, and it shows how quickly things can get out of control when this task is overlooked.

Along with writing up a violation under Item# 18 for Pest and Animal Control, this violation was also marked under Item# 15C, for uncleanliness of non–food contact surfaces.  As the Rules and Regulations for Food Service states, these non-food contact surfaces must be cleaned at a sufficient frequency to prevent the accumulation of soil and debris.

– Contributed by Casey Saenz, EHS