FAQs catering at events
Whether you're selling cakes at the summer fair or
serving up curry at your quiz night, how can you ensure that the
food you serve is safe?
Worried about pupils with food allergies? Want advice on
transporting and reheating food for your International Evening? We
put these and other frequently-asked questions to the team at the
We hold several events for adults each year, serving a hot
meal. Do we need to have a food hygiene certificate?
The detailed food hygiene legislation only applies if the food
handling operation is a regular organised event. Decisions on
whether they should apply are made on a case-by-case basis by local
authorities, and the FSA recommends that you contact the
environmental health department within your local authority to confirm how any legislation
might apply. Where events are considered to be occasional, as may
be the case for PTAs, they remain subject to the general food
safety rules. These require all food served to be safe, regardless
of whether they're for profit or not.
NOTE: PTA+ has had several queries from schools
receiving conflicting advice from local authorities, with
requirements varying considerably. Where a food hygiene certificate
is required, you may want to consider sending volunteers for
training. The Level 2 certificate in Food Safety is a one-day
course, costing around £65. To find courses awarded by the
Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) running near
you, click here.
We run a cake stall at our fairs with home-made treats donated
by parents. Is our PTA liable for any illnesses resulting from
Anyone supplying food in such circumstances is legally
responsible for ensuring that the food they supply is safe. It's
important that you take care to follow the hygiene advice available
on the NHS Choices website: nhs.uk/Livewell/homehygiene.
Your local authority
can also provide advice. If someone were to fall ill as a result of
eating food that you've sold, your local authority might
investigate to determine the cause.
Do we need to wear gloves to serve cakes and should we have one
person serving, and another handling money?
Gloves can help with good food hygiene practice, but they're not
a substitute for thorough hand-washing. Ideally it would be good
food hygiene practice to have a separate person handling money and
serving the food, but this is not always possible. Instead it's
important for food handlers to wash their hands or change gloves
regularly. Also tongs can help to minimise direct contact between
hands and food.
We have a few pupils with food allergies, should we ban
products such as nuts completely or simply make sure that any items
offered are labelled?
Some schools have chosen to ban foods which pupils are allergic
to at such events. However, people can be allergic to a wide range
of food. Another approach would be to provide clear labelling so
that parents, teachers and children can make informed choices and
avoid foods which could cause an allergic reaction. Also minimising
cross-contamination from other foods will need to be managed to
reduce the risk of accidental exposure to food allergens.
Schools should have an allergy management plan in place for
children with a food allergy (especially of primary school age), to
ensure that staff are trained and aware of the likely impact. The
plan will cover what is provided for meals, classes and how to
recognise an allergic reaction and what actions are required.
Should we buy fresh or frozen burgers for our BBQ?
In terms of food safety, choosing between fresh or frozen
burgers makes little difference. As long as the frozen burgers are
defrosted properly before cooking, and they are cooked thoroughly
(until steaming hot in the middle with no pink meat left), then it
really comes down to personal choice. Some frozen burgers come with
instructions to cook from frozen, in which case the manufacturer
should have ensured that the cooking times provided are suitable to
ensure a safe final product. In the absence of any instructions, or
if in doubt, defrost carefully in the fridge overnight and use the
burgers within two days.
If using fresh burgers, make sure that they are used by their
use by date. The FSA recommends they should still be cooked until
steaming hot in the middle with no pink meat left.
We're having a buffet at our next event. How long can we leave
this out at room temperature for?
For occasional events, there aren't any regulations that specify
a maximum time that food can be left out. However, in the interests
of safety, you shouldn't keep food out for longer than four hours.
Warm food shouldn't be left cooling down for more than two hours.
Any remaining food should be put back in the fridge or thrown away.
If you have kept leftovers in the fridge, don't let them stand
around at room temperature when you serve them again.
We're planning to hold an international evening, with families
of different nationalities bringing a dish from their country. Do
guidelines exist for preparing, transporting and reheating food,
and for keeping it warm?
The FSA advice for preparing food safely in the home is based
around the 'Four Cs.' That's 'Cooking' your food thoroughly,
'Chilling' it properly, 'Cleaning' kitchen surfaces and utensils,
and avoiding 'Cross-contamination' between foods. There are some
general guidelines on the NHS Choices website: nhs.uk/Livewell/homehygiene.
When transporting food, obviously make sure you use clean
containers and equipment. If reheating food then do so thoroughly,
making sure it reaches a temperature of 70˚C for two minutes, or
equivalent, so that it is steaming hot throughout.
If you need to keep food hot for some time before serving, you
should cook it thoroughly, until steaming hot, then keep it at a
temperature of 63ºC or above.
For more information
have a look at the 'Cooking Section' of the Safer Food, Better
Business (SFBB) pack (caterers). This has been developed by the FSA
to help small businesses, however the advice on good hygiene
practice may also be relevant for PTAs. Go to food.gov.uk and search under
The above is intended as guidance only. We
recommend that you contact the relevant organisations with specific
reference to insurance, legal, health and safety and child
protection requirements. Community Inspired Ltd cannot be held
responsible for any decisions or actions taken by a PTA, based on
the guidance provided.
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