Be sure to include a food-safety checklist as a standard element in your risk-management strategy for meetings or events.
• Familiarize yourself with basic ratings and certifications so you know what's expected of venues and food handlers.
• Establish the needs and logistics for special meals well in advance, and be sure all parties (including servers) are well informed and prepared to meet your group's needs.
Meeting professionals have a long list of safety issues to consider when planning events. For many, that list has gotten longer in recent years, but perhaps the most common threat to attendees is often missing: food and beverage.
Do your food-service providers take appropriate measures to prevent food-borne illnesses like Listeria, salmonella, cyclospora and E. coli? Are they trained to accommodate allergies and medically necessary diets? Do you know how to determine those answers?
If you answered "no" to any of the above, now is the time to learn. After being diagnosed with food allergies, I made it my mission -- via thrivemeetings.com -- to help planners create safer and more inclusive F&B environments for groups worldwide. Following are important steps in initiating the safety conversation with your food-service partners.
INSPECTIONS & CERTIFICATIONS
• What is your current health-inspection score? When was it last reviewed?
• How many members of your culinary team hold a food/hygiene certification?
• How many members of your culinary team are certified food handlers?
• How many of your culinary team have taken and passed the ServSafe Food Allergen training program?
• How do you manage food recalls (like the recent E. coli outbreak in romaine lettuce)?
FOOD SOURCING & TRANSPARENCY
• Where does your meat come from?
• Where do your fish and seafood come from?
• Who sources your poultry?
• What farmers and local purveyors do you work with in the region?
• What certifications, if any, do you abide by when purchasing food to ensure the food is authentic (e.g., Protected Designation of Origin or PDO, Global G.A.P.)?
• How does the kitchen safely manage and prepare meals that meet special dietary needs (food allergies, religious restrictions, etc.)?
• Have you developed menus that specifically address food allergies and other dietary concerns? If so, please provide examples.
• Who on your staff knows the ingredients in all of the food being served to my group? Who will be our point person? Will that person be on-site with us for all meal functions?
• Is the chef available to work on creating customized menus, and does he/she have the flexibility to do so?
• Is the chef experienced in creating a menu that accommodates all?
• Will the chef talk to individual attendees, if needed, about their dietary restrictions?
• If you order specialty items for special meals, how do you receive, store and label the items when they come into the kitchen?
• Does the kitchen have a separate area and utensils for preparing special meals? If not, how is cross-contact prevented?
• How are special meals communicated to the kitchen and front-of-house staff?
• How do you label and distribute those meals so that they do not come into contact with other meals?
• How are special meals noted in banquet-event orders? Are they labeled "chef's special," or is the type of meal spelled out?
• How does your front-of-house staff manage and serve special meals?
• How do you label food in buffets and passed hors d'oeuvres? Do labels include ingredients and/or note the allergens? Who is responsible for creating the labels?
• Is there one point of contact for guests with dietary concerns?
• Are servers trained on what is being served and how to deliver specialty meals?