Next week the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will consider whether to require all foodservice workers to get a hepatitis A vaccination. The issue grabbed headlines late in February when a prep cook with L.A.-based Wolfgang Puck Catering was diagnosed with acute hepatitis A, potentially exposing 3,500 guests at a dozen special events to the illness. At press time, no other infections had been reported to the health department, sources tell Special Events Magazine.
If Los Angeles makes a hepatitis A vaccination a requirement for food handlers, it would join the handful of municipalities in the U.S.--including Las Vegas and St. Louis--that do so.
Because caterers prepare and serve food in large quantities--not to mention often transport it to far-flung venues--they have special food-handling concerns. In an interview with Special Events, LeAnn Chuboff and Kristie Grzywinski, both directors of science and regulatory relations for the Chicago-based National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, give advice for keeping catered food safe:
Special Events: In regard to foodborne illness, what are the biggest threats that catering operations face?
LeAnn Chuboff: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control came up with five risk factors for foodservice:
- Purchasing food from unsafe sources
- Failing to cook and reheat food adequately
- Holding food at improper temperatures; that is, failing to keep cold food below 41 degrees Fahrenheit and hot food above 135 degrees Fahrenheit [5 degrees and 57 degrees Celsius]
- Using contaminated equipment, which means keeping surfaces clean and sanitized along with keeping raw and ready-to-eat foods separate
- Practicing poor personal hygiene. You need to have a hand-washing program in place, and you want to minimize bare-hand contact with food through using gloves, tongs, whatever. Also included here is reminding employees not to come to work when they are sick.
Q: What about food on the buffet line?
Kristie Grzywinski: If you can control the temperature of the food, then keep hot food above 135 degrees Fahrenheit and cold food below 41 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are not controlling the temperature--which is acceptable--you have four hours to serve it. You can add food to food already on the buffet as long as the original food is out for four hours maximum.
For the full story, see the May issue of Special Events Magazine.
Photo by iStockphoto.com/© George Mattei