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Food Safety & Weddings: Precautions for Caterers & DIY Weddings

The summer wedding season is here. Weddings have a whole host of potential issues - one of the least talked about of which is food safety. DIY weddings are increasing in popularity, with the hosts trying to take on as much responsibility as possible in order to control costs. Whether you’re looking at choosing between a caterer or taking a DIY approach, or you’re a foodservice company working hard in wedding season, here are a few examples to show why you should always keep food safety in mind.

Owner of cruise ship has guests sickened at his own wedding

A friend of a friend who owned a cruise line once told us about a completely avoidable wedding disaster - and the terrible catch was that it was his own wedding. He booked a ship for his wedding, and the guests became sick with food poisoning after eating contaminated food, which forced the vessel back into port and quickly turned the cruise line owner’s wedding into a mini-disaster.

Improper food safety can quickly turn a joyous event into a disaster

Forgetting or outright ignoring to take food safety into consideration can quickly spoil what should be a joyous day for everybody involved in a wedding - entire ceremonies have been ruined through improper food safety procedures. A 2014 wedding in Sullivan, Missouri saw 300 guests become ill from food poisoning after eating gravy that had been left to cool for too long, causing bacteria growth within it. Another food safety wedding disaster featured up to 100 guests at a Wisconsin wedding being infected by foodborne bacteria. In order to avoid this, both catering companies and wedding parties should prioritize food safety guidelines, and ensure that proper food safety training and certifications are in place.

Food safety certification for wedding caterers

Weddings call for months of stressful preparation and often see multiple people taking on time-consuming roles leading up to the big day. Hiring a caterer takes away some of this stress, but it should be done right. If you are looking to hire a caterer for your wedding, then it’s extremely important to ensure that your caterer and their staff have received proper food safety training. This should be one of the first questions you ask when interviewing potential caterers, as it can mean the difference between a safe wedding and a disastrous one.
For caterers who are deep into working during wedding season, aside from ensuring that your staff is fully trained and food safety certified, it’s important that you be able to accurately answer questions from wedding parties. Some of these questions will include things like: how long before the banquet is food prepared, where it will be prepared, how you plan to transport food to the venue, and if there are any allergens used in food preparation that should be addressed. Answering these questions right off the bat will allow your clients to address any concerns that may arise, help them make a more informed decision, and ensure their confidence in your abilities.
In Ontario, new regulations have been passed which require that at least one person on staff has received certified food safety training, which may be news for smaller independent operators. Making sure that both you as the owner and key staff receive this training will help you stay in compliance, and ensure that you and your staff have the knowledge you need to avoid serious damage to your business.

For DIY weddings - follow food safety guidelines set by Health Canada

For those who are looking to follow the DIY wedding route want to cater their own wedding, it’s important to strictly follow food safety guidelines that have been set by Health Canada and the CFIA to ensure that you avoid accidentally contaminating foods through improper handling and preparation.
If food is being prepared away from where the ceremony is being held, it’s important that you safely transport it to avoid contamination - cold foods need to be kept cold, and warm food should be kept warm to avoid bacterial growth. Proper equipment should be used, and cross-contamination should be avoided by not using equipment on multiple foods before washing, and keeping your hands and utensils properly washed at all times. Any leftovers should also be properly stored immediately rather than be left out for guests, as this method poses the risk of bacterial growth.
You may want to assign somebody with extensive food preparation experience to the task - it may be wise to ensure that they have been food safety certified or have some sort of training. Having a trained person taking care of your wedding’s catering will keep the possibilities of food poisoning incidents to a minimum, and ensure that a great time is had by all your guests. The benefit of hiring a caterer is that they are much more likely to have proper certification and training that will help your wedding party avoid a disaster. If you still want to avoid the cost of a caterer, online food safety training courses are affordable, especially if they are considered as insurance against something terrible happening at your wedding.

Other wedding food safety considerations

Other considerations to make before your wedding banquet include things like hosting an open buffet or having individually prepared meals for all guests. Buffets often present the possibility for bacterial growth if the right precautions are not taken, but allow your guests a more diverse range of choices, and the option to eat at their leisure. Your guests should all be asked about allergens or food sensitivities before settling on a caterer or menu, as it will avoid the possibility of allergic reactions that might ruin your big day. Caterers can set up information cards on each dish which list ingredients and identify potential allergens at your request, and these cards can also be used to denote dishes that are vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and so on.
Catering companies should take precautions in order to ensure that their staff are fully informed on food safety guidelines. This can be easily done through the use of infographics like those offered by FoodSafetyMarket, which deal with every aspect of the catering process from preparation to storage. Putting these easy-to-digest infographics around the workplace will serve as a constant reminder to staff about proper guidelines that should be followed, and is one of the easiest ways to ensure that even ESL employees are engaging in proper food safety practices.