Improper food handling contributes significantly to the potential for food-borne disease outbreaks. The Department of Environmental Health & Safety has the following Health and Safety guidelines for temporary1 foodservice operations. The following minimum guidelines for foodservice operations (many of them taken from the Boulder County Food Service Regulations) can reduce the chances of serving unsafe food. Knowledge of proper food storage, preparation, and personal hygiene is essential in preventing food-borne illness and becoming the operator's responsibility. The easiest method for obtaining safety compliance is to use a licensed caterer or vendor whenever possible. The following outlined items should be followed at all times:
- Obtain food from recognized commercial sources. Food in sealed containers should not be used if the container is swollen, leaking, or damaged. Serve pre-packaged, store-bought, non-perishable foods whenever possible, including individual (single-serve) condiment packages.
- Potentially Hazardous Foods include milk, cream, custard, meat, eggs (unless whole, uncracked and odorless), cheese, mayonnaise, poultry, fish, cooked vegetables, salads, or any other food capable of supporting the rapid growth of infectious microorganisms, must be held below 41oF or above 140 oF. Chicken must be cooked to at least 165 oF and beef and pork to at least 155 oF. After two hours food must be refrigerated below 41oF or reheated above 140 oF. Food that has been sitting for longer than two hours has a much greater risk for food-borne illnesses.
- Use pre-packaged, individually sized portions (e.g., pre-made frozen hamburger patties). Frozen foods are to be kept frozen or refrigerated until cooked. Thermometers should be used continually to verify acceptable temperatures. Hot and cold holding units are to have thermometers in them. Hot boxes are not necessary if meats are served directly off the grill.
- Do not allow food or beverage containers to sit in water or undrained ice. Ice used for cooling consumables should not be used for human consumption. Consumed ice should be from manufacturer sealed bags.
- All food handlers shall be free from communicable or contagious diseases, sores, and infected wounds. Sick or suspected sick persons may not be involved in food preparation or allowed in the area where food preparation is performed. Food handlers must keep themselves and their clothing clean. Hair should be covered or restrained. Food handlers should use tongs, forks, napkins, etc. to handle food or they should wear disposable gloves.
- Hands must be washed as frequently as necessary, and after each change of task, to maintain good sanitation, and always before food preparation, handling, and serving, and after using the restroom. Avoid transferring potential contamination from raw foods via hands, equipment, and utensils. With warm running water, soap, and single-use towels or air driers, handwashing facilities should be readily available; if not, disposable gloves must be worn and changed as frequently as necessary to prevent cross-contamination.
- Only single-serving (disposable) consumer items may be used. Disposable cups, plates, and plasticware should be kept in the original wrapping or approved dispensers until used. Food serving utensils must be kept clean and dry or kept in the food being served, or stored in running water. Serving utensils should be oriented so that only the handles are touched by hands.
- Food and single-service items should be stored at least 6 inches off the ground and covered. Barbeque grills must be located away from building air intakes and openings.
- Food contact surfaces, including equipment and serving utensils, must be easily cleanable - no wood, cloth, newspaper, etc. Food preparation areas, utensils, mixing bowls, etc. must be clean and disinfected. Do not barbeque on plated metal surfaces.
- Foodservice areas are to be free of excessive dirt, dust, insects, and other contamination. Provide proper receptacles and collect trash and recyclables for proper disposal. All garbage and debris must be picked up and stored in impervious, covered containers (i.e. trash cans and liners, for the duration of the event.) Dispose of trash properly after the event.
1 Non-regulated by Health Department but still need EH&S approval if the event involves: "The donation, preparation, sale or service of food by a non-profit or charitable organization in conjunction with an event or celebration not to exceed the duration of the event or a maximum of 52 days within a calendar year in the county in which such non-profit or charitable organization resides or is principally located." (Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Consumer Protection Division., Article 44, Food Service Establishments, Section 12-44-211, effective 5/95)