Contractors and technicians who work on any piece of refrigeration equipment that comes in contact with a food product or is in any way involved with drinks and/or ice need be aware of this common sense commandment: Safety is No. 1.

And I’m not talking about personal safety - although that should certainly be the highest priority on the job. I’m speaking about food safety and that includes drinks and the ice that is often used with drinks.

That message came through loud and clear this past spring when the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and National Restaurant Association (NRA) held almost back-to-back trade shows at McCormick Place in Chicago. Food safety was the No. 1 topic at both expos, even beating out gelato products and equipment that seemed to be in virtually every aisle.

For refrigeration folks, the point was that equipment in which food is stored must hold specific temperatures mandated by strict regulations. And that equipment, along with those that hold and/or dispense drinks and ice, must be as clean and sanitary as possible.

Manufacturers exhibiting equipment throughout the two expos stressed that repeatedly at their booths. And several dozen sanitation equipment and service suppliers exhibited as well with booths that included videos and microscopic close-ups of things that might be amok in supermarkets and restaurants if end users didn’t use their services. It was not pleasant viewing.

Proper temperature maintained by good quality and regularly serviced refrigeration equipment took highest priority. One exhibitor quoted the International Food Safety Council as saying, “The leading cause of food-borne illness is improper holding temperature, accounting for 30 percent of cited causes of illness.”

That should be on the minds of every technician called to a jobsite to work on a refrigerator, freezer, ice machine, ice dispenser, etc. You all know the proper procedures for servicing such equipment to make sure it holds proper temperature. And you all know the proper steps to take to ensure the equipment is as clean and safe as possible.

I realize that I may be preaching to the choir and that you may find yourself at food stores, restaurants and/or hotel/motels where that concern for product safety is not as high as yours or the manufacturers of the equipment. Then that may be the time to climb on the soapbox and preach a bit to the unsaved. Tell the end user/owner of that equipment how important well maintained and clean equipment is.

There are two ways to reinforce that. One is to point out regulations that govern proper temperature and cleanliness. And if that doesn’t work, just mention names like “60 Minutes,” “20/20” and “Dateline NBC” and how much they enjoy hidden cameras. Or how much the media in general jumps on stories about rodents running about certain fast-food restaurants.


The best way to get up to speed on new equipment, the latest servicing techniques, food safety mandates, etc., is to attend one or more of the major industry trade shows in the United States that focus on refrigeration equipment, especially such equipment in the food sector. They are the previously mentioned FMI and NRA shows, the upcoming National Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers (NAFEM) show this fall in Atlanta (an every other year show) and the International Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Exposition (AHR Expo) each winter.

There is a bit of shifting in this sector. The FMI Show which had been every year in Chicago is going to an every other year format starting in 2008 and will be moving about the country when it rolls around in even-numbered years. Its next show will be May 4-6 in Las Vegas.

So over the next 11 months, you will have a number of chances over a wide geographical range to see first hand aspects of refrigeration of critical importance to your business. So here are some dates to note for 2007-2008:

• NAFEM Show, Oct. 11-13, Atlanta

• AHR Expo, Jan. 22-34, New York City

• FMI Show, May 4-6, Las Vegas

• NRA Show, May 17-20, Chicago

Please pick at least one to visit in person.

Publication date:07/02/2007