Using Third Party Event Caterers

Published: 21 Jun 2021

In 2019 a specialist wedding event caterer was fined more than £250,000 after a bride, groom and more than 50 of their guests became ill with food poisoning after their wedding. The event held in Staffordshire resulted in 58 people suffering from food poisoning after eating food that was served at their wedding reception by Galloping Gourmet ltd (Coulsdon), back in October of 2017. An investigation by Lichfield District Council’s food safety team determined that the cause of the food poisoning outbreak was identified as Salmonella Typhimurium, which came from an undercooked hog roast served at the evening wedding reception. Six food samples were taken, however there was no hog roast left to sample for testing. With additional samples taken from 20 of the affected people, the national Salmonella reference lab was able to isolate the bacteria genetically, proving that they were linked from the source point which in effect allowed them to identify the suspect food.  The affected people were taken ill with symptoms of nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach cramps and fatigue, three of which required hospital attention.  Galloping Gourmet (Coulsdon) Ltd pleaded guilty to two food safety breaches, which included placing unfit food on the market and failing to follow their own food safety procedures. The case had four court hearings and was adjourned several times before final settlement.

What should you look for before using an outside cater?

The business must be registered with their local public protection team (environmental health) where they are based. When environmental health officers inspect the stall or setup, they will be looking for this information. Food business owners are required to identify and assess the food safety hazards and risks that are relevant to their business and put procedures in place to prevent problems. There should be written evidence that the procedures ensure food safety processes, have been thought through carefully and are being properly applied. This could be a document such as a safer food better business pack.

If the caterers are using their own pop up stalls or stands the design of the food stalls must be constructed/ designed in such as way so that it avoids the risk of contamination to the food or other hazards. The internal walls/ surfaces should be easy to clean and free from condensation/ mould. This applies to all hand washing, preparation, and storage areas. Equipment and utensils will need to be stored correctly and not in contact with the floor and should be maintained in a good state of repair to be cleaned effectively.

Facilities for washing and handwashing should be provided. An adequate supply of hot and cold water must be available, including detergents and sanitisers for cleaning utensils and food preparation surfaces. Plastic bowls are usually acceptable for washing up and hand washing, provided that hot and cold water is always available, and bowls are emptied after each use.

When handling and storing food, it must be done in such a way that prevents cross contamination of the bacteria from raw/ uncooked foods and ready to eat/ cooked foods. If this is not managed correctly it can lead to food poisoning (this is the most common transmission route and leading cause of food poisoning). Cooked meats, meat products and other ready to eat prepared foods must be kept separate from raw meat and poultry.

All high-risk foods (perishable foods and foods likely to support growth of bacteria, (meat and dairy products) must be stored at temperatures below 8°C and preferably below 5°C. Cool boxes with ice packs may be acceptable for one day events if an appropriate storage temperature can be maintained.

How can I be sure that a business is complying with these requirements?

CSC offers a range of services that will allow your business to host events where outside caterers are used, giving you the confidence that they are adhering to the basic standards that are required by any food business when it comes to food safety. We offer a site audit which allows third party caterers to receive a 1 year accreditation which will allow them to cater for events. We can also offer on-site services to monitor caterers if required.

Contact the CSC team if you need any support or have any questions. We are here to support you and your team to keep both your staff and customers safe.