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For event season, hire caterers with permits to ensure safe food

August 10, 2016

Caterers working without a health department permit put public at greater risk

Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department’s food safety permit and inspection process limits area foodborne illness outbreaks. Local caterer continues to operate without required permit sickens eventgoers.

TACOMA, Wash.—With event season in full swing, your local health department wants to remind those who plan events to make sure they hire caterers that have a food permit.

“Good food should taste good, but it should also be safe for you to eat,” said Rachel Knight, food safety program manager at Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. “Local caterers with the appropriate permit to prepare and serve food at events are responsible for following food safety rules—and protecting the public’s health,” said Knight.

Those that operate without the proper permit can put their customers at much greater risk of getting sick, according to Knight.

The reminder is timely. Last month, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department learned of a foodborne illness outbreak in Snohomish County associated with food supplied by a Pierce County caterer, Mr. Rick’s Catering. The state Department of Health continues to investigate the outbreak, which could impact as many as 175 people in King, Kitsap, Pierce, Spokane, and other counties. While the effort to learn how many people were sickened is still underway, laboratory tests have confirmed the illness is Salmonella.

Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department has notified Mr. Rick’s Catering not to operate several times since 2012, and as a result of the incident in Snohomish County, recently issued a $710 fee for continuing to operate without a permit. In the interest of protecting public health, and because the business owner continues to advertise as a viable business, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department has opted to name the unpermitted caterer.

“Public health focuses on keeping people safe in places where they live, learn, work and play,” said Jefferson Ketchel, environmental health director for the Snohomish Health District. “Public health partners around the region work together to advance food safety and give residents information they need to make informed decisions when eating out.”

Buying food from permitted food sellers reduces your risk for foodborne illness

While no food is 100% safe, buying food from permitted food businesses reduces the risk of foodborne illness. Permitted caterers:

  • Employ staff trained in safe food handling practices.
  • Use an approved, regularly inspected commercial kitchen.
  • Have the right equipment to safely prepare, transport and serve food.
As in other industries, hiring those without the proper permits may save a little money. But the potential costs of foodborne illness when an unpermitted, unsafe caterer serves food puts people at great risk—of getting sick, time lost from work, and worse. For the very young, elderly and immune compromised, some foodborne illnesses can result in death.

Make sure your caterer has a Health Department permit.

permit is required to cater in Pierce County. Permitted caterers are safer for you and your guests because they:
  • Use an approved, regularly inspected commercial kitchen.
  • Have equipment for safe food preparation, transport and service.
  • Employ staff trained in safe food handling practices.
  • Discard refrigerated food left at room temperature for more than four hours.

Make sure your venue has the right facilities

If your venue doesn’t have the following facilities, your caterer may have to supply them:

  • Restroom facilities with handwashing.
  • Hot and cold running water and handwashing sinks separate from the restroom.
  • Equipment to keep hot food hot and cold food cold.
  • Protected area for food preparation and assembly.
Symptoms of food poisoning include upset stomach, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea and can take minutes or weeks to show up. If you think you have food poisoning, let your doctor and the Health Department know.

Make sure your friends and loved ones leave your event with great memories—and no foodborne illness. Find a permitted Pierce County caterer at


Edie Jeffers, Communications Manager
(253) 798-2853, (253) 405-6822 (cell/text),
Steve Metcalf, Communications Specialist
(253) 798-6540, (253) 345-8238, (cell/text),

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