Fact Sheet

Managing the Risk of Foodborne Illness

Public entities may be provide foodservice in staff cafeterias and break rooms, schools, prisons, half-way houses, daycare facilities, hospitals, nursing homes, zoos, recreational facilities, and restaurants open to the public.

Food often plays a supporting role to the fellowship of activities, such as health or job fairs, and interdepartmental meetings, but can soon upstage the event if not handled properly. No entity is exempt from this risk. The most severe cases of foodborne illnesses occur in people who are very old and the very young, immunosuppressed, and healthy but exposed to a very high dose of an organism. Whether serving potluck contributions transported from home or dishes prepared in the entity’s kitchen, take reasonable measures to ensure the safety of employees. The first step is to accept that food illnesses do happen. The second step is to review policies and procedures that keep food safe with food preparers and servers.

The Four Cs of Safe Food Preparation

Bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses are controlled by four methods:

  1. Clean: Wash hands and surfaces often.
  2. Compartmentalize: Don’t Cross Contaminate.
  3. Cook: Heat to proper temperature.
  4. Chill: Refrigerate promptly.



Provide oversight of kitchen and serving staff. Select a long-term volunteer or an employee with training or expertise in quantity food preparation and service.

Reheating Foods

Serving Foods

Hiring a Caterer

A licensed caterer hired to prepare and serve food at the entity or entity-sponsored event assumes the responsibility of safe food preparation.

It is imperative that food preparation be conducted in accordance with local sanitary codes and proper food preparation practices. These may include:

Food Preparation & Sanitation


Consumer Information, Food Safety Project, Iowa State University

Fact Sheets, Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA

Fight Bac!, Partnership for Food Safety Education

Foodborne Illness Education Information Center, USDA, FDA

Foodborne Illnesses FAQ, CDC

Food Safety, FoodSafety.com

Gateway to Government Food Safety Information

School Food Service Safety, National Coalition for Food Safe Schools

State Health Agencies