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Food & Food Safety at Events

Food Safety

Food plays a large role at many events, and is often a major factor in attendance! Unfortunately, food that is not properly prepared, stored or served may cause major headaches for event sponsors, and other illnesses for guests.

Fortunately, Cornell has resources available to assist you with proper handling and serving of food. In addition, some events may require a Temporary Food Permit issued by the Tompkins County Health Department. Risk Management & Insurance provides information on Preparing and Serving Food, in addition to information about required permits.

Cornell Dining also provides assistance to event planners wishing to provide food at their events. Contact Cornell Dining's Food Safety staff for assistance.

Preparing and Serving Food

  1. The Tompkins County Health Department may require a Temporary Food Permit at events where food is prepared and served to the public. A Permit will not be necessary for events that are limited to invited guests only.
  2. Label food items that might contain common food allergens such as, but not limited to, dairy, egg, fish, peanuts, soy, shellfish, tree nuts and wheat.
  3. Tables, chairs, electrical cords and water hoses should be setup in locations that do not block walkways or doorways and do not create tripping hazards.
  4. Volunteers should be responsible for serving food to the attendees.
  5. Trash and rubbish containers with plastic bag liners need to be provided for garbage and re-use disposal.
  6. Contact Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) if you will be using burners, hot plates, Sterno or other flames to heat the food.
  7. Ice that is consumed or that touches food should be made from potable water.
  8. Servers should handle all food with disposable gloves and wear hair restraints.
  9. Servers should use serving tongs to avoid cross contact.
  10. Spills should be cleaned-up immediately.
  11. Dispose of leftover food at the conclusion of the event. Do not let attendees take home food from the event.
  12. Dispose of trash and ensure the event space is reasonably clean.
  13. Time/Temperature Controlled for Safety foods are foods that can support the growth of microorganisms.  Examples of Time/Temperature Controlled for Safety foods include: Milk and milk products, Eggs, Shellfish and crustaceans, Fish, Sliced tomatoes and cut melons,  meat such as beef, pork and lamb,  Poultry, Raw sprouts and sprout seeds, Cooked vegetables, rice and beans,  Tofu or other soy protein, Untreated garlic-in-oil mixtures.
  14. A handwashing station must be made available at the location where the food is prepared as well as where it is served (not just through the door into a bathroom). An example of a temporary handwash station is in the attached document below..
  15. If Time/Temperature Controlled for Safety foods are being served, a thermometer is required, and the group/operator must use it to monitor cold temperatures as well as hot temperatures.   ‚ÄčThe thermometer must be able to read from 0-220*F.  
  16. Food that is cooked must be kept hot for service and must be no less than 140*F.   Even if the food is being served, the food still needs to be heated to stay above 140 degrees F.
  17. Food that is served cold or is being stored in refrigeration until it is cooked/served must be kept at 45 degrees F ‚Äčor less.
  18. Some important cooking temperatures to know: poultry 165*F, ground beef 158*F, pork 150*F, eggs 145*F, any cooked items that don't fit into these categories would be cooked and held at 140*F. 
  19. Food must be protected during service: No bare hand contact and the food must be supervised to ensure this. Food should be covered when not actively being served.
  20. Food cannot be prepared in a home kitchen/dorm room.  Food must be prepared on-site at the event or in a kitchen permitted by the Health Department.

Groups that are required to obtain a food permit will be required to take the Tompkins County food safety tutorial and quiz available at:

Additional Information

Please see the attached documents for additional information.