In the catering industry, food items are often cooked off-site in a commercial kitchen and then delivered to wherever the catered event is being held. In such cases, food items will invariably need to be stored anywhere from one or two to several hours.
This is when caterers must be very careful.
Most cooked foods must be kept chilled to prevent bacteria from developing—if bacteria starts developing, food poisoning could be the result.
Fortunately, some food manufacturers make preventing this a bit easier for caterers. The manufacturer’s food label will often display the phrases “keep refrigerated”, “once opened, keep refrigerated” or a “use by” date to remind us that the food item must be stored in the refrigerator.
The manufacturer will likely also indicate how long the food items can be stored once food packaging has been opened. However, we cannot depend on the food manufacturer for all our guidance. Food professionals should also keep in mind these points when it comes to storing food in the refrigerator:
- Do not overstock refrigerators . This can impact air circulation in the refrigerator and how well the fridge chills food.
- Do not place hot or just-cooked food items in refrigerators . This can negatively affect the temperature of the refrigerator and cause bacteria to start developing in food items already stored in the fridge. Always allow freshly cooked items to cool down before storing in the refrigerator.
- The Food and Drug Administration requires that refrigerators used in the food service industry be set at or below 40 degrees (F) . However, this temperature must continually be monitored. To address this and comply with FDA regulations, many caterers and foodservice operators now use the HawkSafety temperature monitoring system, provided by DayMark. It continuously monitors refrigeration and notifies kitchen staff by emails, texts, or computer dashboards if temperatures are not meeting pre-determined levels.
- Do not store food in open cans . Remove the contents and place in clean, covered containers.
Another thing caterers must always keep in mind is the amount of time it takes to deliver catered food and ensure it is delivered safely. For instance, bacteria generally starts growing rapidly once the temperature of food goes above 40 degrees (F). In fact, as the food gets warmer, bacteria can double in number in as little as 20 minutes.
If it will take more than one hour to deliver food to a catered event, it should be stored in chilled containers and then re-heated at the location in which it will be served.
For more information on temperature monitoring systems, contact a DayMark Representative.