Catering businesses can sometimes pose a bigger risk to food safety than traditional restaurants, because the more the food is handled or transported, the greater the risk of bacterial contamination. But as long as caterers properly train their staff and keep a watchful eye on the product, this should not be difficult. Here are eight tips to help caterers maintain food safety standards at their events.
Follow safe food preparation practices
For catered events, most food is either prepared ahead of time and transported to the event, or made at an onsite kitchen. Either way, all food must be cooked to the recommended temperatures in order to maintain safe food temperatures. Safe temperatures vary depending on the product being prepared.
Transport food in insulated food carriers
Both hot and cold foods need to be kept at the appropriate temperatures when being transported to the catering event. The only way for caterers to assure hot foods are kept hot and cold foods cold while in transit is by using insulated food carriers. Don’t skimp on these.
Reheat foods to 165 °F
The FDA Food Code stipulates that any food that needs to be reheated must reach an internal temperature of 165 °F for 15 seconds to be considered safe, so be sure that any food items that were cooked off-site then chilled for transport are reheated appropriately.
There’s no excuse for dirty hands
As with any food service operation, employees must have access to hand washing stations. If the catered event is indoors, there should be hand sinks near by, either in a kitchen or restroom. For outdoor catered events, the caterer will need to bring along portable hand sinks or set up another mobile hand washing station to give employees a place to wash their hands. Don’t get caught with dirty hands!
Do your dishes!
Even if it is a one-day event, caterers need access to commercial dishwashers in order to clean any food contact surfaces and utensils during and after the event. If there is no three-compartment sink available at the venue, one can be temporarily installed and plumbed for the event.
Time and temperature control still applies
The two-hour rule still applies for potentially hazardous foods. All hot food needs to be kept above 140 °F and cold food needs to be kept below 40 °F for proper food safety. If the food is outside of this range for more than two hours, that food needs to be thrown away.
Separate display ice and beverage ice
At all times, ice that is used to chill food or beverage bottles needs to be kept separate from ice that goes into drinks. Display ice can pick up bacteria and other contaminants from the items it comes into contact with, which can in turn contaminate beverage ice and a customer’s drink.
Provide extra protection for outdoor events
For outdoor catered events, wind, flies and other vermin are potential hazards. The best way to protect against these dangers is by covering all displayed food, throwing all waste in a waste container with a lid, using wind guards on windy days and setting the food tables up underneath a tent.