- On-Street Provision of Food to the Homeless
- How to ensure you are compliant with food safety legislation
- Operating an on-street food business from your home
- Preparing Food for Vulnerable People
- > Requirements for Different Stages of the Process
- Food Donation
- Additional Resources
The starting point for making food safely is to be confident about the safety of your raw ingredients and the environment in which they are processed or cooked. In the case of the on-street provision of food to the homeless, your suppliers may be volunteers operating from their home kitchens. By law, each volunteer who prepares food for your operation must be registered with the Health Service Executive. This is a simple and free process, but an important one in ensuring the safety of the food they make.
Each time you are providing food to the homeless you must have a record of each of the suppliers / volunteers who made the food. It is important to keep this record in order to trace back the food if a problem occurs.
Certain food needs to be kept chilled to keep food poisoning bacteria from growing. Chilled food must be kept at 5 ℃ or below. Frozen food will keep for longer as bacteria and or yeasts will not grow at very cold temperatures. Freezing however does not kill bacteria. Freezers should operate at a temperature of at least minus 18 ℃.
Dry foods such as flour and rice should be stored in cupboards or areas which are clean dry and well ventilated. Food should be kept off the floor and placed in covered containers.
Separating raw and ready-to-eat food is essential to prevent food poisoning bacteria from spreading. Always store raw meat, poultry or fish away from ready-to-eat food. This helps prevent food poisoning bacteria spreading from raw food to ready-to-eat food, for example by blood dripping from the raw food on to the ready-to-eat food.
Unwashed fruits and vegetables can be a source of food poisoning bacteria and must also be stored separate from ready-to-eat food.
Preparing and handling food
The preparation and handling of food for service to the homeless through an on-street set up or soup run must be done separately to other activities in a domestic kitchen. Before preparing and handling food for service to the homeless in a domestic kitchen, the area should be cleaned, sanitised and cleared of any unnecessary items.
Before preparing food you should ensure that all equipment and utensils are clean and that you have washed your hands thoroughly.
Cooking is a critical step to ensure that any food poisoning bacteria that may be present in food are completely killed and that the food is safe to eat. It is essential that cooking is carried out properly. Preheat ovens and grills before cooking.
Check that combination dishes (e.g., soup) are piping hot (steaming) in the centre. If you are cooking a large dish or batch, check in several places and remember large dishes or batches require a longer cooking time.
Food should be cooked to a temperature of 75 ℃ or hotter. You can use a meat thermometer to check the temperature.
Cooling food is an important step in food safety, as food poisoning bacteria can grow in food that is left to cool too slowly. Cooked food should be cooled down as quickly as possible and then put into the fridge or freezer within two hours.
If food has not been cooled down safely, it should not be eaten and should be thrown out. You can cool food more quickly by dividing it into smaller portions. Smaller amounts of food cool down more quickly. You can place containers of hot food into cold water or an ice bath to speed up the cooling process. While cooling food, stir it regularly with a clean utensil as this will help the food to cool more evenly and will help prevent hot spots.
Reheating means cooking again, not just warming up. Always reheat food until it is piping hot (70 ℃ or hotter) all the way through. The minimum re-heating temperature is a little lower than the minimum cooking temperature because the numbers of harmful bacteria present are expected to be lower in previously cooked food. Food should only be reheated once.
Hot-holding of food
Cooked or re-heated food should be served immediately or kept hot. If you are keeping food hot, it must be kept above 63 ℃ and should be kept in hot holding equipment to prevent the growth of food poisoning bacteria that may have survived cooking/re-heating. Pre-heat hot holding equipment (e.g., a soup kettle) before you put any food into it.
If you supply hot or chilled food to an on-street food operation, you must take care to prevent food becoming contaminated during distribution and delivery. Ready-to-eat food is at risk from contamination with food poisoning bacteria from raw food if both are transported together. It is essential that both raw and ready-to-eat food are fully wrapped and kept separate during transportation. Clean, food grade containers should be used for food in transit. People delivering and handling food should practice good personal hygiene and wash their hands regularly.
To prevent the growth of harmful bacteria, chilled food should be transported and distributed at a temperature of 5 ℃ or less. Hot, ready-to-eat food must be transported at temperatures at or above 63 ℃. The transport vehicle or containers (e.g., cool boxes) must be capable of maintaining the food at the appropriate temperatures. You should periodically check that these temperatures are being achieved using a thermometer.