ServSafe - Summer Food Safety Tips for Outdoor Catering

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Summer Food Safety Tips for Outdoor Catering

Summer Food Safety Tips for Outdoor Catering
Summer is here and the days of outdoor catering have arrived. It can be an exciting time for your staff—weddings, graduation parties, corporate picnics, and festivals of every variety under the sun. These events can be fun, but they also carry with them special challenges for keeping food safe.

Throw the perfect—and safe—outdoor party

Summer is here and the days of outdoor catering have arrived. It can be an exciting time for your staff—weddings, graduation parties, corporate picnics, and festivals of every variety under the sun. These events can be fun, but they also carry with them special challenges for keeping food safe.

Controlling temperature. You already know that you need to keep cold food cold and hot food hot, but are you prepared to do that outdoors? Do you have enough refrigeration units? You need to prepare for the weather; a hotter day will introduce more challenges for keeping cold food cold as well as create an environment where foodborne pathogens will grow faster. Rain or wind can interfere with your equipment and such heating elements as liquid fuel.

Keep cold perishable food in a refrigerated unit or cooler that is equipped to maintain the temperature of food at or below 41 degrees Fahrenheit until serving time. Keep hot food at or above 135 degrees Fahrenheit until serving time. When you’re putting foods out to be eaten, put them out in the smallest quantity appropriate. When you serve smaller quantities, the food is used more rapidly and is easier to keep at the correct temperature.

Labelling food. You certainly don’t want anyone relying on memory. Instead, carefully label each dish. Food that is pre-made in your kitchen needs to be labelled with what the food is and properly date marked with a discard date of seven (7) days from date of preparation.

Washing hands. It’s easy to wash hands in your kitchen, but will you have everything you need on site so that employees can wash their hands while preparing and serving food? Make sure there are enough sinks with running warm and cold water, soap and appropriate hand drying provision and that they are near enough to the food prep area that they will be used frequently and appropriately.

Providing tools, containers, and storage. Make sure you’ve packed all the right tools. There should be separate utensils, such as tongs, knives and serving spoons, for raw and cooked food. If you can, have separate cutting boards for raw and cooked foods. You need to make sure you have plenty of food handling gloves. Ready-to-eat food should never be handled with bare hands. Make sure you bring enough containers to meet your catering needs. Whenever you refill a container, you need to use a new one. You cannot just pile new food on top of old without changing the bowl. Have somewhere to store food that is covered and protected from pests such as ants or flies and weather-related contaminants such as mud or blown leaves.

Training staff. YOU know you should follow all these tips and procedures for keeping food safe, but what about your staff? The ones who will actually be doing the work the day of the event? Keep checklists to make sure staff follows established food safety procedures. Check your training records. Will those working the event have ServSafe Manager or ServSafe Food Handler training? If not, order those materials now and make sure they go through training before the event so that all your staff is working together to make these events memorable for all the right reasons.