Things to consider when organising an event


Catering at events is a high-risk activity, with the possibility of causing food poisoning to many people, if food is stored, handled, prepared and served large amounts and over a longer period of time..

The main causes of food hygiene issues include:

  • Preparing large quantities of food too far in advance
  • Incorrect food storage (for example, not refrigerated)
  • Poor personal hygiene for food handlers
  • Not cooking / reheating food for the correct length of time and at the right temperature
  • Cross-contamination from raw food, to high-risk ready to eat food
  • Use of inappropriate food contact surfaces which cannot be cleaned

This advice aims to help those planning to provide catering at events in their implementation and compliance with good food hygiene practices, health and safety matters and legal obligations before, during and after the event.

This will help to protect the health and safety of everyone attending and involved at the event.

For more advice and information contact the Environmental Health Team, by emailing

Steps when arranging catering 

1. Planning for the event

The potential for problems linked with outdoor event catering is significant. Make sure that you read the following information when planning catering for your event:

  • If a food poisoning outbreak happens because of on-site catering operations, both the person / organisation booking the caterer and the event caterer will be responsible. It is essential that you understand your responsibilities.
  • You must make sure that you have access to hot and cold drinkable water for hand washing and cleaning, appropriate and suitable food storage for the food that you are serving (for example, refrigeration / hot holding.)
  • At the end of this section is a food safety questionnaire, created for event organisers by the Council to help when tendering for caterers. If you are using your own caterer, then they should complete and return the form to you. This form includes essential information from which a decision can be made on the suitability of a particular caterer.
  • If you are booking a caterer for an event, you are entitled to ask the caterer for a recent inspection letter from their local Council, to show the levels of standards achieved during the last inspection for food hygiene and safety, structure and for confidence in management / control systems.
  • Event caterers must provide the Food and Occupational Safety team with a copy of a completed food safety questionnaire for each caterer, with additional supporting evidence (Appendix 1) and a completed event summary questionnaire (Appendix 2). This should be submitted one month before the event.

2. Environmental Health Officer (EHO) visits

During the event, authorised officers from South Tyneside Council's Environmental Health Team will visit the site to check for compliance of all catering operations with relevant food safety and health and safety legislation.

3. Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP)

Caterers must document their arrangements for making sure that food provided to the public is safe for consumption.

Where users prepare and bring food to the event to give to runners, they are effectively acting as caterers and must comply with all legislation.

  • A hazard analysis must be undertaken to identify all potential food safety hazards in the catering operation to think about and then decide on the points at which things could go wrong.
  • Controls need to be brought in at those points which are critical to making sure food is safe such as during the stages of food transportation/delivery, storage, preparation, cooking, and the arrangements for chilling and/or hot-holding of food whilst on display for service.
  • Documentation must be provided to show how these controls will be managed.

4. Food hygiene training

Anyone catering for the public at an event must make sure staff handling and preparing food are suitably trained.

  • Staff should be instructed and have an appreciation of the importance of any control or monitoring points identified in the food safety management system are responsible for. They should appreciate the essentials of food hygiene, for example: personal hygiene, fitness to work, temperature control, cross contamination and cleaning procedures.

If you have any questions, please contact the Environmental Health team.

5. General requirements

When making these arrangements, caterers will need to make sure the following facilities are available and procedures are in place to comply with food hygiene regulations:

  • A portable water supply must be provided. This  could be in the form of suitably clean pump action water flasks to provide hand washing facilities, plus antibacterial soap and paper towels.
  • Hot or cold boxes may be needed for any foods that need to be kept at a certain temperature. These must be suitable for the task and be capable of maintaining temperatures for the amount of time needed. Stored cold food must be kept below 8ºC and hot food must be kept above 63ºC.
  • Soup warmers are not an acceptable method of heating up soup/ sauces to a safe temperature and should not be used.
  • Food prep surfaces may be needed (trestle tables are not generally considered suitable for food preparation) that can be cleaned down with suitable materials as needed before, during and after food preparation.
  • Any wiping cloths should be changed frequently. It is recommended to use disposable cloths.
  • Users providing their own catering are advised to regularly monitor and record the temperatures of cold food storage units, hot holding units and the core temperatures of cooked food. Digital probe model thermometers can be used for this purpose. Probe wipes should be used to sanitise probe thermometers before and after use to prevent cross-contamination.

Ideally all areas where food prep takes place should be on level ground.

High-risk foods are foods upon which bacteria can easily grow, and which may be eaten without further cooking. They are usually moist and high in protein. 

Ready-to-eat foods are high risk because if they are contaminated or allowed to deteriorate, there are no further preparation steps to control the hazard. Examples include:

  • cooked meat and poultry
  • pates
  • meat pies
  • cooked meat products
  • shellfish and other seafood (cooked or intended to be eaten raw)
  • dairy products
  • cooked rice
  • cooked eggs
  • products made with egg

It excludes bread, pastry and similar baked goods, prepared salads, fruit and vegetables.

6. Waste disposal

Plastic refuse sacks may be used and should be properly tied or sealed. Cardboard boxes and open containers are not suitable for the disposal of waste.

Any waste should be disposed of correctly.

7. First aid and accident reporting

Where open food is prepared, a first aid kit complete with waterproof dressings and bandages must be provided.

A suitable accident book should be provided by any charity providing their own catering operation.

This is to record any injury resulting from an incident or accident affecting catering staff.

Food safety questionnaire for event caterers

This form must be completed for each private catering operation (ie one that does not involve the official on site caterer - Hutchison Catering Services).

Please send the completed form to the Environmental Health team, so that they are aware of the proposed activities on site:

View the  Food safety questionnaire for event caterers (Word doc) [79KB]