Green onions, spinach, peanuts, lettuce, tomatoes: These are just some of the popular and essential foods that have been the focus of some recent high-profile food contamination incidents. Food-related illnesses and product recalls make everyone uneasy, especially those in the foodservice industry. However, adherence to best practices in food safety by your caterer can keep people safe and ensure an enjoyable catering event for all involved.
Ensuring food safety begins with managing the flow of food through hazard analysis critical control points (HACCPs), a highly recommended risk management process. HACCPs address the analysis and control of food contamination risks for every step of a foodservice establishments operation. Covering the entire food production process, HACCP ensures food safety from the farms that grow the food, through processing and distribution, procurement and preparation, and finally to consumption of the finished product.
Safe receiving, storage, handling and food preparation by your caterer are important. One key strategy is to ensure that your catering company maintains a trained staff to inspect product upon delivery and ensure the product is properly stored. They should visually inspect items on arrival, looking for damaged cases, items that have been repacked and expiration dates that have passed. For frozen items, look for large ice crystals on products that indicate thawing and freezing. For dried goods, check for moisture, mold, holes in packaging and evidence of insects.
The catering company should label and store received items quickly and follows the rule of stock rotation: first in, first out (FIFO), which is critical to keeping food fresh and safe. Equally important is keeping the storage area safe and clean by wiping up spills and leaks and remove dirt and trash quickly. Keep storage racks clean and free of rust and do not let cracked walls or floors go unrepaired. Keep unauthorized people out of food storage areas.
The safety and quality measures taken by successful distribution centers are just as important as the HACCP plan at the supplier’s facility or the careful handling and preparation by your caterer. It is important that your catering company utilize best-in-class distributors that devote substantial resources to cold chain management by addressing critical challenges associated with product freshness, food safety, and proper temperature and transport throughout the entire delivery cycle. Proper cold chain management can help maximize the quality and safety of products such as fresh agricultural produce and processed foods. It is also critical in preventing food borne illnesses with temperature-sensitive products.
What to expect from the distributor to maintain the cold chain
• Refrigerated warehouses and trucks
• Temperature monitoring of the warehouses and trucks
• Temperature history of the products being shipped
• Standard operating procedures that address the food safety risks at each step of the supply chain
• Staff expertly trained in food safety
• Sufficient staff certified in HACCP at each location
Observing food safety practices will result in more flavorful, nutritious and enjoyable food, and will ensure that an enjoyable and memorable catering event will be had by all.