How to Choose a Caterer
October 12, 2018
How do I decide which caterer to use?
At this time of the year I have noticed an increase in people advertising their catering services on the various forms of social media or many others selling their products at one the markets that are so frequent at this time of the year.
I just want to point you in a safe direction when choosing some one to provide food for you, your family or your special occasion.
There is no doubt that in the community there are very many talented people with great cooking skills that feel they can make a bit of extra cash by preparing their produce at home and selling it at markets or advertising on social media and having their food delivered to the prospective customers
What many of these manufacturers don’t realise is that they may not be meeting the current food safety guidelines set out by the local councils or the Food standard Codes, and that the buyers may be buying products that have a potential to cause food poisoning.
Just recently I was looking through Facebook and noticed an advertisement for a 2-metre-long Grazing Board, I looked amazing so colourful, and the environment was beautiful, a beautiful sunny day people milling around enjoying a glass of wine.
When I looked more closely I noticed that in order to get the colour combinations, there were many foods mixed and touching each other that would be considered cross contamination.
Cross Contamination is the transfer of harmful bacteria to food from other foods, cutting boards, utensils etc. if they are not handled properly. This is especially true when handling raw meat poultry, and seafood, so keep these juices away from already cooked and ready to eat foods and fresh produce. (ref: fsis.usda.gov)
I wondered who had made this particular board, and if they knew the basics of food safety, which when catering for large numbers is a very important responsibility.
Things to look for when sourcing a caterer for that special occasion.
Is the company or the individual caterer registered with the local government as a food business.
In the past many small businesses operating from home were exempt from the Food Safety Regulations as enforced by the local government bodies but not any longer, if food id being provided for sale, then the Food Standards must be met.
Is the food being prepared in a private home, or a commercial kitchen.
Does the caterer sound as though they understand the risks when selling food, are they only speaking about the look and taste of the food and not speaking about transporting the food in vehicle used for food transport only?
If a 2 metre Grazing board is being prepared, is it being put together on site in temperatures above 5ᵒC and below 60ᵒC, if so the food is being prepared in the danger zone, and It is only safe to keep food in this zone for 2 hours before it is refrigerated, or after 4 hours disposed of.
Are the person or people assembling the board wearing gloves, and changing them frequently to avoid cross contamination? Are they ensuring that all ready to eat food, and fresh produce is kept separate from raw food, e.g. sashimi or sushi.
How long will the board be available for guests to graze on, bearing in mind if the area is in the danger zone, after 2 hours it should be refrigerated or after 4 hours disposed of.
Also, are there tongs available for guests o use, or are they eating from the board with their fingers, another cross-contamination risk.
As I have mentioned in one of my other blogs, every year in Australia there are around 4 million cases of Food Poisoning and of these 32,000 are hospitalised and 80 people die, so food safety is important.
If you are hiring a caterer, you have a responsibility to you guests to make sure they are registered, and have the appropriate insurance, public liability and professional indemnity. Their staff have should have been trained in food safety, and the food they are charging you for has been prepared and served in a manner that ensures it is safe to eat.
If the food looks great, tastes good and smells fresh, that isn’t a good basis to assume the food is safe, food poisoning bacteria are no detectable, the only way you can know that the food is safe is to know how I was stored, prepared and served, and that all these steps were done in line with the food safety standards.
So, when looking for a caterer for your next occasion, shop with food safety in mind.