Buffet food safety

When you're making food for large numbers of people, it's important to keep food safe. Here are some general practical tips:

Plan ahead

  • If you can prepare food in advance and freeze it, this should make things easier later but do ensure it is properly defrosted when you come to use it.
  • If you're not sure how quickly the food will be eaten, keep buffet serving portions small. Prepare a number of small platters and dishes ahead of time, and replace the serving dish with the fresh ones throughout the party. Store cold back-up dishes in the fridge.
  • Make sure you've got the capacity to keep food cool and safe. If fridge space is limited then you can use cool boxes with ice packs. Remember to prioritise what gets fridge space.

Preparation is key

  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water, especially after handling raw food, using the toilet, blowing your nose, touching pets or touching dirty cloths or bins.
  • Always wash fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • Keep raw and ready-to-eat foods apart. Separate raw food from food that will be ready to eat whilst in the fridge to prevent cross contamination. Wherever possible use separate cutting boards, knives etc for raw and ready to eat food.
  • Do not use food past its 'use by' date.
  • Always read any cooking instructions and make sure food is properly cooked before you serve it. Even if people are waiting to eat, don't reduce cooking times.
  • Ensure that food preparation areas are suitably cleaned and sanitised before and after use and wash any equipment you are using in hot soapy water.

Safe storage and service

  • Most food needing to be chilled, such as sandwich fillings and cold meats, should be left out of the fridge for the shortest time possible and not more than four hours. After this time, any remaining food should be thrown away or put back in the fridge but if you do put the food back in the fridge don't let it stand around at room temperature if you serve it again.
  • Ideally you should keep hot food at above 63°C whilst out for service. Once food has cooled below 63°C it should be used or taken out of service within two hours.


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