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Best food safety & hygiene practices for buffets and events

Food Safety Level 2 screenshot

We are a classic example of a company who uses buffet-style food or food vans for office events. It’s one of the most efficient ways for everyone to eat at once and socialise with one another. It’s incredibly important that companies who supply food and the companies that are consuming the food are aware of good food safety and hygiene practises, otherwise you run the risk of contamination and food poisoning. Regardless of if the food is for a corporate or a private event, when food is being prepared, served or cooked for a large group of people, it should be done so safely and best practices should always be followed.

Just some of the iHASCO team lunches that have been provided by external caterers.
Just some of the iHASCO team lunches that have been provided by external caterers.

“Catering businesses are now legally required to comply with the FIC Regulations which means that allergen information must be available upon request.”

Allergy UK

Something that you as a food supplier should make sure of is that you are aware of any allergy or dietary requirements of your client before the event. This way you can aim to prevent any cross-contamination in both the preparation and serving of food. 

Here are some more helpful tips from our Food Safety Level 2 Training Course to help those who provide buffet-style food events to do so safely...

The 4 C’s

The Food Standards Agency recommends the 4 C’s as the 4 main things to remember for good hygiene. They are cleaning, cooking, chilling and cross-contamination.

Cleaning:

  • Anything from a fork to a fridge could be defined as ‘food equipment’ and it is important that all food equipment is in good condition and made of materials that are easy to keep clean, this includes all equipment that might be used if you have a mobile food business e.g. a food van. 
  • Make sure that the food area that you are preparing or serving on have been both cleaned and disinfected. 
  • Ensure all equipment used in the preparation and serving of food is washed correctly - this includes using the right materials to wash and dry equipment.
  • To make sure that nothing gets missed there should be a regular cleaning routine or rota to make sure cleaning is done regularly and systematically.
  • You (as a food supplier) should ensure your personal cleanliness is also up to standard too. 
  • Remember - if you don’t clean properly, you might be spreading infection.
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Cross-contamination:

  • To avoid cross-contamination you should consider the cleanliness of; people, surfaces and utensils, storage of food, disposal of waste and the need to keep pets and pests away from food.
  • Raw foods should be kept separate from ready to eat foods. If they must be stored together then make sure that raw meat/fish/eggs or poultry is stored below the ready to eat foods.
  • Use separate chopping boards and utensils for raw and ready to eat foods and make sure they are properly cleaned between uses.
  • Make sure food is covered until it is ready to serve.
  • Provide a serving utensil for each different dish to help prevent cross-contamination. 
  • Indoor bins should be lined, have a lid and emptied and cleaned regularly. Outdoor bins should also be emptied and cleaned regularly and should not be overfilled.

Chilling:

  • Certain foods, if left out of the fridge, can grow bacteria in room temperature conditions. 
  • Fridge and freezer temperatures should be checked regularly. Fridges should be below 5°C and freezers should be below minus 18°C. So if you are transporting food to an event for a short time, cold food could be taken in suitable containers,(insulated boxes with cold packs if possible). If it is a longer time, a suitable vehicle with refrigeration units should be used.
  • Foods like cold meats, dairy and sandwich fillers should not be left out of the fridge for more than 2 hours.
  • It is better to serve small portions at an event and then keep topping them up if you’re unsure how long the food will be left out for. 

Cooking:

  • More often than not, food catering companies will cook some of the food on site. It is important that all foods are heated for the correct amount of time to ensure that it is cooked the whole way through (it should be reheated to a minimum core temp of 75°C). 
  • Food thermometers could be used to ensure that larger pieces of meat are cooked the whole way through.  
  • If you are reheating food that you have already cooked at an event, then you should make sure the food is reheated to a high enough temperature to destroy the bacteria.
  • If food is being kept warm (e.g. in a chafing dish) rather than sitting at room temperature, then this will alter the time it will be allowed to sit out.

The 2-hour rule

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that perishable foods that have been sat at room temperature should be thrown out after 2 hours. 

If the food has been sat at higher than room temperature (e.g. an outside event on a hot summer's day) then it should be thrown away after 1 hour.

Allowing people to keep leftover food

If you allow people to keep the food that you supply to them after the event, you should let them know what will need to be refrigerated in order for it to be safe to eat. While this is not a requirement, it is good practice and highlights commitment to prevent people from becoming ill from your food (even after the event).

Employers or the event organiser can also check a food suppliers food hygiene rating online

Food Safety & Hygiene Training

We offer 4 courses as part of our Food Safety and Hygiene Certification Courses bundle:

Anyone who works where food is made, sold or served legally requires food hygiene training and our courses are IOSH approved for your reassurance. You can try our food safety and hygiene courses for free today! 

Food Safety & Hygiene Courses

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