Summer is just around the corner (even though the weather hasn’t quite got the memo yet!). What’s not to love about the summer and spending more time outdoors. I always look forward to the wonderful array of markets, music, food and drink festivals. All which have a fabulous selection of foods to delight the taste buds.
Catering at an outdoor event is a high-risk activity and will always carry with it the possibility of causing food poisoning to a large number of people.
Poor and careless hygiene practices, and the warmer weather in summer, can create ideal conditions for bacteria such as Salmonella and E.coli to multiply to unsafe levels in food.
Sometimes the usual safety controls in a kitchen, such as handwashing facilities and refrigeration may be limited at outdoor events. This makes it even more important for you to be prepared and follow food safety tips.
In this blog I will go through some key points, producers/stall holders need to consider to ensure they continue to comply with food hygiene legislation.
1. Transporting food
- Vehicles and containers used to transport food must be kept clean and in good repair.
- Food must be wrapped, covered or placed in sealed containers.
- Ready-to-eat foods must be kept separate from raw foods to prevent cross- contamination.
- Refrigerated vehicles may be necessary if high risk foods are sold to ensure that the cold chain is maintained throughout delivery and storage.
2. Storage & Display
- Careful control of food temperatures is one of the most important ways of reducing the risk of food poisoning.
Keep food out of the danger zone (5 to 63°C), bacteria grows best within this range.
- Hot foods must be stored and maintained at ≥63°C. Foods which are reheated at the stall must be heated to a core temperature of ≥70°C.
- Use a calibrated thermometer to ensure food is adequately cooked, and to check cold storage temperatures. Make sure that you use a probe wipe to sanitise the thermometer before and after use, to prevent cross-contamination.
- High risk foods must be kept separate from raw products.
- The stall must be situated so that the risk of cross contamination by dirt, animals or other sources of contamination, is minimised. Food should be stored at least 450 mm off the ground.
- Samples should be displayed in small portions and replaced or topped up when required. Samples should be offered in single portion disposal containers or be supplied with cocktail sticks, disposable cutlery, tongs or other means to minimise the risk of contamination.
3. Facilities for cleaning equipment
- Suitable cleaning equipment and materials must be provided at the food stall to clean what is required to ensure food safety while in operation at the site.
- Where utensil/equipment washing is necessary, a sink unit of adequate size with a supply of ‘running’ hot and cold water must be provided or easily accessible. This can be achieved by bringing enough water or having access to a supply. The water must be of potable quality.
4. Handwashing Facilities
- A wash-hand basin with ‘running’ hot and cold water or warm water, with soap and disposable towels are required where there is exposed high-risk food.
- For low-risk activities, alternative means of cleaning hands such as detergent and antiseptic wipes, may be acceptable. Note – alcohol hand disinfecting gel or wipes are only effective when used on physically clean hands, and is not suitable for hands which are likely to become soiled during the course of trading.
5. Personal Hygiene
A high degree of personal hygiene must be practiced by staff handling foods on stalls.
- Wash your hands before handling food, and after using the toilet or after handling raw foods or waste.
- Wear clean clothing, footwear and over clothing.
- Use separate aprons when handling raw foods and cooked/ready to eat foods – colour coded are the best idea.
- Ensure cuts and sores are covered with a coloured waterproof dressing.
- Avoid unnecessary handling of food, and never cough or sneeze over food.
- Do not smoke or eat near food.
- If you have an illness that could be transmitted through food, e.g. sickness and diarrhoea, you should not be working in a food handling environment.
6. Waste Disposal
- A suitable number and type of refuse bins must be provided. They must be provided with tight-fitting lids. They must be easy to clean. Bin liners should be used where possible.
- Bins may be required for customer use at the food stall. Bins must be emptied during trading if necessary, and refuse must be properly disposed of after trading.
- Bins must be segregated from food storage during transport.
- All food handlers, including seasonal and part-time staff, must be adequately supervised, instructed and/or trained in food hygiene matters to allow them to do their job safely.
Industry guides to good hygiene practice were developed by the National Standards Authority of Ireland as an agreed interpretation of the hygiene rules as provided for in Regulation (EC) No 852/2004. These include I.S. 340: Hygiene in the Catering Sector and I.S. 341: Hygiene in Retail and Wholesaling which may be followed. Check out these standards for more detailed information.