Ensuring food safety in catering industry

By , on August 23, 2015

Pinoy Food (Department of Tourism / Wikimedia Commons)
Pinoy Food (Department of Tourism / Wikimedia Commons)

MANILA — In almost every important occasion such as birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, launch, people hire catering services. Of course, people want nothing but the best for their loved ones and friends.

Competition in the catering industry looks tight these days. Beyond offering super yummy and enticing meals and desserts, what do these businesses have to consider? If you answer “affordability”, yes, that’s one. If you say “classy presentation”, that’s another point.

But more importantly, food safety is something that all catering business, whether big-time or just starting, should never take for granted.

You might own a catering business that can prepare foods at the fastest time. How sure are you that these foods are 100 percent safe? Getting the raw ingredients from a reputable supplier is not enough.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), food-borne diseases and outbreaks involving large number of people are usually caused by food produced for mass catering which are not cooked, stored or handle properly.

The FDA noted that it is the responsibility of catering services (or any establishment that prepare, serve and distribute foods for mass catering) to ensure food safety to prevent food-borne diseases and outbreaks.

Yes, these establishments need to be very careful in every step – from keeping their workplace clean, to buying and cooking the ingredients, to food storage and serving the food.

Don’t fret. The FDA has the following advice:

1. Keep your area clean.

Make sure the working area / kitchen, and the foods are free from insects, pests as well as pets/animals. Of course you also need to ensure that the whole working area is always sanitized and that all the garbage are disposed properly.

2. Avoid placing pesticides around the kitchen.

While it was mentioned that the kitchen must be insect-free, don’t make the mistake of placing the pesticides in the working area. The FDA noted that cleaning chemicals must be stored in properly labelled containers and must be kept away from foods.

3. Use clean utensils.

Utensils that were not used for some time might have been exposed to dust and other forms of contamination. Wash and sanitize all surfaces and equipment used for food preparations.

4. Wash your hands thoroughly.

While this might sound very basic to some, how sure are you that all your employees do wash their hands, especially when preparing food?

The FDA’s advice is to wash all parts of the hands by rubbing them vigorously with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

5. Stay home when sick.

Okay fine, the person is probably the Employee of the Year, showing enthusiasm at work even when he/she is sick. But don’t sacrifice people’s health, okay?

When food handlers are sick, when they are vomiting or suffering from diarrhea, and if they have wounds, skin infections and sores, they should stay at home according to the FDA.

6. Cook foods thoroughly.

It’s given that you want to keep your word to your client, who, for instance, will hold the engagement party by 6 p.m. Don’t forget that every food, especially meat, poultry, eggs and seafood, must be cooked thoroughly. You would rather wait patiently than say sorry after the party, don’t you?

7. Keep food out of the ‘danger zone’

Relax. This only means you must keep cooked food hot (more than 60 degrees Celsius) prior to serving. Also, refrigerate (below 5 degrees Celsius) all cooked and perishable foods.

8. Avoid cross-contamination.

Separate raw food from cooked food. The FDA emphasized that dangerous microorganisms from raw foods might be transferred to other foods during preparation and storage.

One of the reasons why people hire catering services is to avoid hassle. With these eight tips from the FDA, the catering owners can also look forward to a hassle-free business.