Cleanliness and sanitation are the cornerstones of running a catering company. Whenever foodborne illness enters the picture, it’s bad for your bottom line. One catering business based out of Los Angeles International Airport is learning this lesson the hard way. Earlier this month, American Airlines suspended its use of Gate Gourmet due to listeria found in its floor drain. While no listeria was found on food-preparation surfaces, the airlines did not want to take any risks.
Luckily, there’s been no evidence of passengers getting sick with listeria on flights as a result. But what happens if your catering company is responsible for an outbreak of foodborne illness? To start, you’ll want catering business insurance on your side in case people sue your business for negligence. It’s also imperative to have a plan in place so you can spring into action and correct the issue. This way, your catering organization has a shot at overcoming the incident and regain consumer trust.
Initially, American Airlines was the only one to suspend service from Gate Gourmet. But more recently, Delta Air Lines and Virgin Australia joined suit. According to Delta, the kitchen complies with regulations at the local and federal level. But they decided to stop serving its food “out of an abundance of caution for the health and safety of our customers.”
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports about 1,600 people contract listeriosis annually, and 260 die as a result. It can be especially harmful for people with weakened immune systems. It’s just one of a few bacterial infections that can result from eating contaminated food.
Catering companies have a responsibility to their clients and all who eat their food to practice stringent food safety. Not only is an outbreak of foodborne illness after your event damaging to your reputation, but it seriously endangers people. Authorities may even pull your operating license if your company is definitively linked to an outbreak.
For example, one caterer in Alabama lost his license after two incidents involving E. coli and salmonella. First, a luncheon in 2014 sickened 19 people—including one death. Then in late 2016, the company catered a wedding to disastrous results. Two-thirds of guests became ill, and 22 had cases serious enough to seek hospitalization.
The assistant state health inspector in this case reminded people to make sure caterers they hire have a health department permit. Of course, if you’re the one running the catering company, it’s up to you to secure licensure and permits. You’ll also need to comply with any and all health codes—plus use common-sense best practices throughout every step.
In addition to the actual in-kitchen preparation, pay close attention to sanitation guidelines during:
If a client does sue your company due to a foodborne illness outbreak, catering business insurance can mitigate financial damages. General liability insurance—more specifically, product liability coverage—covers financial fallout from accidental harm to customers.
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