Food Handling Guide

General Guidelines

Why are guidelines needed for food events?
Foodborne illness is at an all-time high in Utah, but it doesn’t have to happen. Many cases can be avoided if you as an event coordinator follow simple guidelines and if University employees, students and volunteers handle food properly. These guidelines are being implemented to protect you, the public, and the University’s interests. We do not want anyone to get sick or die from food poisoning.

Is your event public or private?

A public event is one in which any advertising or inducement exists for the community to attend. A private event is for University employees or students only, and the food service is limited to a known group. Use the following chart to determine if your event is public or private.

Public events

  • Advertised/open to the community or
  • Easy to walk in and pick up food or
  • Funds solicited through sales

Examples of public events

  • Fund raisers
  • Receptions at Convocation
  • Weekly seminars at which cookies and coffee are provided

Private events

  • Limited to a known University group

Examples of private events

  • Department meetings, lunches or receptions
  • Staff gatherings
  • Coffee breaks
  • Class Meetings
  • Residence hall floor meetings or socials

Public events fall under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Food Protection, Salt Lake County Health Department. University of Utah employees, students and volunteers must comply with their regulations.

Additional Guidelines for Public and Private Events

  • Follow the safe food handling and sanitation practices for foods (see below).
  • Monitor food from the time it is delivered to the time it is discarded.
  • Do not accept donated food unless it is from a licensed vendor.

Who’s Liable if Someone Gets Food Poisoning?

  • Anyone who is involved with the event can be sued.
  • The University will support you, if you follow appropriate guidelines

Safe Food Handling and Sanitation Practices for a Private or Public Event

These guidelines apply to

  • You, when you prepare food at home for a private event. You also are responsible for following safe food handling and sanitation practices during serving and clean-up.
  • Licensed vendors. However, the event coordinator is responsible for ensuring these practices are adhered to.

Observe appropriate food and personal sanitation measures before, during and after service.

Safe Temperatures for Foods


All foods, if handled properly, can be safe.

  • Keep hot foods HOT (140 degrees F or above); serve on heating trays or heat as needed.
  • Keep cold foods COLD (40 degrees F or below); serve on ice or serve throughout the gathering from platters stored in the refrigerator
  • Don’t serve raw or partially cooked meat, poultry, fish and eggs, including: rare or medium-rare hamburger, ice cream, egg nog and Ceasar salad containing raw eggs

Maintain safe temperatures for potentially hazardous foods or don’t serve them. (Use a thermometer to check temperatures of potentially hazardous foods.)

Place the thermometer in the center of the dish or the thickest part of the meat away from bone.

  • 212F – Liquid leftovers: soups, gravies, sauces – a rapid boil.
  • 180F – Poultry – until juices run clear.
  • 170F – Pork, ground poultry and poultry mixes.
  • 165F – Red meat – until brown or grey inside; ground red meats and pork; egg dishes, eggs – until whites and yolks are firm.
  • 160F to 140F – Holding range for hot foods.


  • DO NOT leave food in the range of 40F to 140F for more than 2 hours.
  • DO NOT thaw foods in the range of 40F to 140F.
  • 40F to 32 F – Holding or refrigerator range for cold foods. Thawing range – defrost frozen foods.
  • 0F to -10F – Freezer settings

THROW AWAY potentially hazardous foods that are out longer than 2 hours.

Potentially Hazardous Foods

High protein and high carbohydrate foods become hazardous when they are out of safe temperature ranges for more than 2 hours. If a food is kept out of its safe temperature range for more than 2 hours, including preparation, delivery and serving time, then its potential for breeding germs greatly increases.

Examples of potentially hazardous foods are:

High protein foods

Raw and cooked:

  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Dairy and
  • Egg products, e.g. deviled eggs

High Carbohydrate Foods


  • Pasta
  • Beans
  • Rice
  • Potatoes
  • Soups, sauces, gravies or
  • Food mixtures that contain any of the above items and/or meat or eggs.
  • Others
  • Warm iced tea (bacteria naturally found in tea leaves)

Foods That Are Not Potentially Hazardous

Low protein, dry high-carbohydrate and high-acidity foods are not potentially hazardous.

  • Potato and tortilla chips
  • Rolls
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Bread
  • Doughnuts (not cream/custard or cheese filled)
  • Prepacked, washed raw vegetables
  • Nuts

Even if Foods are Not Potentially Hazardous, Can I Still Get Food Poisoining?

Yes. Cross-contamination can occur. It’s the transfer of disease-causing organisms from a contaminated surface to a previously clean surface or area. Follow appropriate sanitation measures to avoid cross-contamination.

Appropriate Sanitation Measures

  • Wash hands frequently
    • Use soapy water AS HOT AS YOU CAN STAND IT for 30 seconds
    • Rinse under hot running water
    • Dry with a paper towel.
  • Wash your hands after:
    • Using the bathroom (Hepatitis A can be transferred from fecal material.)
    • Changing diapers
    • Petting animals
    • Coughing or sneezing into your hand
    • Blowing your nose
    • Smoking
    • And always before handling food or changing food functions.
  • Sanitize the food preparation area frequently using 1 tablespoon chlorine bleach in 1 gallon warm water (75 degrees F).:
    • Counter tops and equipment
    • Cutting boards, sinks, scrubber and brushes. Use plastic cutting boards, not wood.
  • Make sure your equipment is clean and not contaminated by children, pets, insects or dirty hands.
  • Use paper towels to clean up during food preparation and serving. Harmful bacteria multiply quickly in kitchen towels, sponges and cloths.
  • Thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator or the microwave.
  • Change gloves, utensils and dishes when changing functions, e.g., from handling or preparing raw or fresh foods to serving fresh or cooked foods.
    • Serve grilled food on a clean plate, too, not one that held raw meat, poultry or fish.
  • Keep both short and long hair under control. Wear a cap or a hair-net or tie your hair back.
  • Have one person serve.
  • Keep unused condiments, marinades and sauces separate from leftover condiments, marinades and sauces.
  • Do not serve or store food in hazardous material containers, e.g., soft drinks in beakers.
  • Do not store any food in laboratory refrigerators.



  • Ask the following questions:
    • What type of food is it? Potentially hazardous or not hazardous food?
    • If the food is potentially hazardous, how long was it out of its safe temperature range, including preparation and delivery time? Throw away potentially hazardous food.
  • Never taste food that looks or smells strange to check if you can still use it. Just discard it.
  • Refrigerate and freeze perishable leftovers promptly in small, shallow containers for quick cooling. Cool air must circulate to keep food safe.
  • Do not mix unused and uncooked foods with leftover foods.
  • Do not store any food in laboratory refrigerators or freezers.


Immediately after the event, seal all food garbage in plastic garbage bags. Dispose of the bags in a dumpster.

Do not let garbage bags sit out–put them in a dumpster. Depending on the time of day, University custodial services may not empty trash for 24 hours or more. Garbage becomes odorous, attracts bugs and germs and promotes bacterial growth.

What is Food Violence?

Food violence is tampering with food products, e.g., placing foreign objects or substances into food products with the intent of harming the person(s) who eat(s) the food products.

Tips to avoid food violence:

Never leave food unattended, e.g., monitor the food from the time it is delivered to the time it is discarded.

Make sure those serving the food for public events are “authorized food handlers.”

Guidelines for Outdoor Events

  • Keep the food under cover, e.g., use awnings, tents, etc.
  • Provide hand washing facilities for servers. Use a water container with a spout so that the water flows down over the hands into a basin.
  • Follow the safe food handling procedures.
  • Contact the Health Department @ 801-313-6600.

Where Do I Report Foodborne Illness?

  • Call University Risk Management at 801-581-5590 and fill out an incident report.
  • Report any cases of foodborne illness to the Health Department 801-313-6600, especially if the food involved comes from a restaurant or commercial outlet.

Food Donations


Where does the food come from? Don’t accept donations from someone’s home.

Ask how it will be kept safe:

  • Is additional preparation needed?
  • Where will the additional preparation occur?
  • Who will serve it?
  • Who will clean it up?
  • Are all work areas clean?
  • Have safe temperatures been maintained from preparation through delivery?

If you can’t answer these questions, don’t accept the food.

When serving, follow safe food handling and sanitation practices.

What Bacteria and Viruses Can Make People Sick?

Organism Source of illness Symptoms Preventionmethods
E. coli 0157:H7
Found in undercooked hamburger and roast beef, raw milk, improperly processed cider, contaminated water, mayonnaise and vegetables grown in cow manure.
Seen in person-to-person transmission, especially among children in daycare.
Onset: 3-8 days after eating; lasting 4-10 days.
Severe abdominal cramps, diarrhea and sometimes bloody diarrhea.
Young children, the elderly and the infirm may develop complications: hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can cause kidney failure, brain damage, strokes and seizures.
Cook meat until 160o F.
Refrigerate or freeze all meat products as soon as you return from shopping.
Wash hands in soapy water as hot as you can stand it after using the bathroom or hanging diapers and before food preparation.
Carefully wash hands and sanitize utensils and work surfaces after contact with raw meats and their juices.
Salmonella Found in raw meats, poultry, fish, eggs, milk and products made with these foods. The bacteria are toxic and multiply rapidly at room temperature. Onset: 5-27 hours after eating. Nausea, headache, diarrhea, vomiting. Can be fatal in the elderly, infants and the sick. Use safe food handling and sanitation practices.
Avoid cross-contamination
Cook foods thoroughly.
Refrigerate promptly. 
Listeria monocytogenes Found in unpasteurized milk and soft cheeses. Onset: 4-21 days. Headache, fever, vomiting. May be fatal. Avoid unpasteurized milk.
Cook foods thoroughly.
Use safe food handling and sanitation practices.
Clostridium perfringens Found in many foods, meat and poultry dishes. The bacteria are toxic and multiply rapidly at room temperature. Onset: 8-24 hours after eating.
Abdominal pain and diarrhea.
Use safe sanitation practices and handling of food, especially meat and meat dishes, gravies, and leftovers.
Cook food thoroughly.
Staphylococcus aureus Found in cuts and nostrils. Toxin is produced by bacteria when food is left too long at room temperature. Found in meats, poultry and egg products, in potato, tuna and macaroni salads and cream-filled pastries. Onset: 2-6 hours after eating. Flu-like symptoms: diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and abdominal cramps. Rarely fatal. Sanitary and safe food-handling practices.
Wash hands after blowing nose.
Cover cuts on the skin.
VIRUSHepatitis A virus Found in fecal material. Found in shellfish harvested in contaminated areas. Found in raw foods. Onset: 30 daysFatigue and jaundice. Can cause liver damage and death. Use sanitary and safe food handling practices.
Wash hands after using the bathroom.
Cook thoroughly.
Norwalk, Human Rotavirus Found in intestinal tract and expelled in feces. Contamination occurs through direct hand-to-food contact during food preparation and serving; the use of sewage to fertilize gardens; eating shellfish grown in contaminated waters. Onset:1-3 days.Severe diarrhea, nausea, vomiting. Respiratory symptoms. Can last 4-5 days, or many weeks. Use sanitary food handling practices.
Cook foods adequately.

Should I Be Concerned About Mad Cow Disease?

No. Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, BSE, is a chronic degenerative disease in cattle that affects their nervous systems. BSE is not present in the US, but has been identified in the United Kingdom and a few other countries. The USDA has been monitoring cattle for 10 years and has never identified a single case in the US. The US has not imported processed beef or cattle from Britain since 1989. Cattle imported for breeding purposes before 1989 are being tested every six months.

There is no evidence that humans contract Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, CJD, a human disease similar to BSE, by eating beef. The incidence of CJD is 1/million/yr–and it has not changed in recent years.

Food Safety Resource List

For further information, contact:
Department of Health
Bureau of Food Protection
(801) 313-6600

Utah State University Extension Service
(801) 468-3170

USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline
Mon – Fri, 10am – 4pm ET
Recorded messages anytime
(800) 535-4555

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Foodborne Illness Line
24-hour recorded information
(404) 332-4597

University of Utah Food Service Off-Campus Caterer’s Agreement


Date of Agreement:
Date of Catered Event:
Name of Caterer:
Type of Function:
Person Responsible:
Home Phone:
Work Phone:

Number of people expected:
Type of Food to be served:

What space has been reserved?

What type of set-up is being used for the food to be served?

Please list all food items to be served, the quantity being prepared and the price per each food item:

The off campus caterer must meet the following requirements:

  1. The caterer must have a valid business license in Salt Lake County.
  2. Persons preparing and serving the food must have a current, valid Food Handler Permit from the Salt Lake City-County Health Department.
  3. The caterer must agree to defend, hold harmless and indemnify the University of Utah from and against any and all losses, damages, claims, actions, costs and expenses, including legal fees by reason of actual or alleged injury or death of persons or loss of or damage to property as a result of or arising out of the providing of food or services in connection with this agreement.

The caterer must provide proof of Comprehensive, General and Contractual liability insurance in the amount of at least $500,000 each occurrence and $1,000,000 in the aggregate. Also, proof of State Worker’s Compensation and Employers’ Liability coverage must be provided. The off-campus caterer must provide and use his/her own dishes, utensils, serving dishes and all equipment necessary to execute the event. The area used must be left clean by the caterer or a clean-up fee will be assessed.

O.C. Caterer:

University Representative:

December, 1996