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Food Safety Guidelines

Food can cause illness if not handled, prepared, or served properly. Therefore, precautions must be taken to ensure no food-related illnesses will affect the health and wellbeing of anyone in the UHD community. 
In accordence with University of Houston System's Food Safety Standard (SAM 01.F.03), UHD will ensure all food establishments comply with the most current Texas Department of State Health Services Texas Food Establishment Rules (TFER) and compliance with U.S. Food and Drug Adminisration Food Code, as applicable. The Food Safety Standard applies to all food establishements of the System. 

Food Services Definitions:


Caterer A food establishment where food is completely or partially prepared for delivery to a customer and food is transported to the customer at a separate location where it is meant to be served and consumed
Critical Control Point Any point or procedure in a specific food system where loss of control may result in an unacceptable health risk
Filth Dust, dirt, insect excretions or secretions, insect body parts, rodent hairs or excretions, feathers, or any foreign or injurious contamination
Food Any raw, cooked or processed edible substance, ice, beverage, or ingredient used or intended for use or for sale in whole or in part for human consumption
Food Contact Surface Those surfaces of equipment and utensils with which food normally comes in contact, and those surfaces from which food may drain, drip, or splash back onto surfaces normally in contact with food
Food Establishment An operation that stores, prepares, packages, serves or otherwise provides food for human consumption. Food establishments include, but not be limited to, residential cafeterias, delicatessens, caterers, food trucks, concession stands, restaurants, temporary food service establishments, farmers’ markets, and any other establishment where food and beverages are prepared or served to the UHS community.
Food Service Manager The person assigned to work within a food preparation area who is the apparent supervisor of food manufacturing, production, preparation, processing or packing activities therein at the time
H.A.C.C.P. Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point is a technique and a thought process that treats the storage, preparation and service of food as a continuous system. The premise being, that if every step of the food preparation process is carried out correctly, the end product will be safe food
Hazard Any biological, chemical or physical property that may cause an unacceptable consumer health risk.
Organism A complex structure of interdependent and subordinate elements whose relations and properties are largely determined by their function in the whole
Pathogenic The origination and development of a disease. Causing or capable of causing disease (pathogen: a specific causative agent [as a bacterium or virus] or disease) 
Potentially Hazardous Foods Any food whole or in part of milk or milk products, eggs, meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, edible crustacean, or other ingredients, including synthetic ingredients, in a form capable of supporting rapid and progressive growth of infectious or toxigenic microorganisms. The term does not include foods which have a pH level of 4.5 or below or a water activity (Aw) value of 0.85 or less
Pre-Packaged & Sealed Pertains to cooked and/or prepared food items that are packaged and air-tight sealed at source location following strict controls.  Examples: cookies, pastries, crackers, chips, pickles, pretzels, cured meat, etc.
Pre-Made Pertains to food items made off site and individually wrapped and boxed for delivery 
Risk An estimate of the likely occurrence of a hazard or danger 
School Food Establishment A food service establishment where food is prepared and intended for service primarily to students in institutions of learning including, but not limited to, public and private schools, high schools, colleges and universities. A school food establishment is classified as a food establishment
Sterno This is the trademark name for a canned liquid cooking fuel
Temporary Food Service Facility Any food service facility that operates at a fixed location for a period of time of not more than fourteen (14) consecutive days in conjunction with a single event or celebration
TFER Texas Department of State Health Services Texas Food Establishment Rules

Bacterial Information:

Bacteria are found everywhere. Some are harmful and some are not. It is important to keep the growth potential of bacteria to a minimum.  Maintaining the temperatures in the previous section will help prevent food borne illnesses.
Ideal growth of bacteria is in the temperature range of 41°F - 135°F. Due to the growth in this range, we try to keep potentially hazardous foods outside these temperatures and take the foods quickly through this temperature range when heating or cooling foods.
Wiping clean and sanitizing all surfaces periodically while preparing as well as during the event must be conducted.  In addition, all utensils must be kept cleaned and sanitized during event to prevent cross contamination during use. It is important to serve condiments in single service packets or in squeeze bottles with sealable lids to prevent cross contamination.

Classification of Perishable Foods:

Item: Description:
Meat and Poultry Products Beef, pork, lamb, mutton, veal, chicken, turkey, goose, duck, etc. Includes pizza or sandwiches with meat product(s) served at a fundraising event
Animal Based Byproducts Gravies/soups/broth made from animal stock or containing animal products
Fish and Seafood Products All types of fresh or salt-water finfish, mollusks (e.g. squid, octopus, etc.), crustaceans (e.g. crab, etc.) and shellfish (e.g. mussels, clams, oysters, etc.).
Egg Products From any animal that produces eggs for human consumption (e.g. chicken, duck, or goose).
Milk and Egg Based Byproducts Foods that contain milk or egg products. Includes dry (powdered) egg concentrates (e.g. eggbeaters) after water is added to product and items such as custards, cheesecake, etc.
Soy Products Tofu and other soy products (e.g. soy milk, etc.)
Raw Fruits and Vegetables Raw seed sprouts (e.g. bean sprouts, alfalfa sprouts, etc.) and cut melons
Cooked Legumes, Grains and Vegetables Beans, rice, pastas and other cereal grains; most vegetables, especially baked potatoes, since they become perishable after they are cooked

Compressed Gases and Chemical Substances:
Compressed gas cylinder(s) are used through-out the University for welding, food preparation, and research purposes as well as for special events.
One of the common types of cylinder used at UHD is helium gas to fill balloons. Helium, including all other types of cylinders must be transported by a UHD staff or faculty members who have been approved to do so and must use a cylinder dolly for large cylinders. 
Special events involving cylinders or chemicals must have EH&S approval as part of the event approval process.  The name of the “Responsible Person” as well as a description and location of the activity must be provided to EHS for review. EHS may request additional information, provide training, or implement safety controls before the event is approved.
Chemicals used for demonstration purposes outside of the lab must also be approved by the EHS department before approval of the event is granted. Chemicals can pose undesirable health and fire risks. It is important that EHS is involved with the planning of this type of event.


Think about safety before you buy.
Safe to Use Not Safe
Decorations that are "UL Listed" and /or "flame retardant" or don't burn easily,  such as listed below:  Decorations that burn easily, cannot be effectively treated with flame-retardant or can ignite nearby items, such as listed below:
Artificial trees and wreaths Natural evergreen trees, wreath, boughs and other cut greenery
Streamers or other paper decorations (labeled as fire resistant by the manufacturer) Paper, plastic, Styrofoam decorations not  labeled as fire resistant by the manufacturer
Fabrics that are professionally treated with flame retardant Sheer, mesh, gauze-type fabrics
Miniature light-bulb strands (for indoor use) Large light-bulb strands (get very hot)
Fresh flowers, pumpkins, gourds, indoor plants, fruits, vegetables      Dried flowers/leaves/grasses, corn stalks, hay and straw

Additional decoration safety guidelines include the following:
Do not hang decorations from overhead pipes or sprinkler heads (this could result in water damage) 
Keep items 18 inches below fire sprinkler heads
Keep lighting equipment (especially high intensity) and other heat sources away from decorations 
Remove decorations immediately after your event
Locations where decorations are not permitted without an EHS Office safety review include:
- Atriums
- Auditoriums, classrooms and other large rooms (obtain permission from space coordinator before purchasing decorations)
- Corridors
- Elevators
- Exit Doorways
- Lobbies
- Stairways

Electrical Extension and Power Cords:

The improper use of electrical extension and power cords can create fire, tripping or shock hazards. 
Safe practices include the following:
- Use a UL listed extension cord that has a 3-prong plug (grounded) and a heavy duty rating
- Ensure the power strips and surge protectors have a UL approved label
- Plug extension cords into wall outlets
- Connect power strips and surge protectors directly into a wall outlet
- Run cords in low traffic areas (such as along the edge of walls or under tables)
- Secure extension and/or power cords with wide tape to the  floor or to table legs
Unsafe practices are as follows:
- Use of a narrow extension cord with a 2-prong plug (easily overheats)
- Use of an extension cord as permanent wiring
- Plugging one extension cord  into another extension cord, multi-outlet strip or tap (these may overload circuit)
- Overloading circuits by plugging too many items into the same outlet
- Use of "multi-plug" adaptors and other devices that allow the connection of multiple appliances into a single receptacle
- Connecting multiple power strips or surge protectors together
- Overloading power strips and surge protectors
- Running extension cords  through or across doorways or under carpets or rugs (damages cord insulation – shock hazard)
- Running extension cords across aisles, corridors or stairs
- Dangling cords above the floor
- Stringing cords over or wrapping cords around overhead pipes or sprinkler heads (could cause water damage)

Fog and Haze:

The use of fog machines inside any UHD building is not allowed except:
 -In a laboratory setting under proper ventilation
- During a theatrical performance in either the O’Kane Theatre or Wilhelmina Cullen Robertson Auditorium
Fog and haze present a number of safety concerns. High concentrations of fog can obscure the visibility of exit signs, exit doors and pathways, which is prohibited by Fire Codes. Fog at high concentrations can set off smoke detectors that are in the HVAC system, activate the fire alarm and disrupt the eventGlycol solutions used to produce fog may cause irritation of eyes, nose and throat as well as allergic reactions at high concentrations
As a result of these and other safety concerns, the use of any machine, device or chemical to create fog, foam or a haze-like visual effect, is limited by the UHD EHS Office.  The limited use during a theatrical performance and for special events will be allowed with the following precautions:
- A safety plan and with fire attendant details must be submitted to the UHD EHS Office for approval
- The EHS Office must be notified of the intended use of fog or haze at least seven days prior to the event
- The Facilities Management Department will deactivate smoke detectors in the immediate area during event

Food Service Applications:

All campus events that involve serving food, drinks or food related items require a Food Services Application. Please submit your form at least seven (7) days prior to the date of the event to allow the EHS Office to properly review your application.

Food Temperatures:

If in doubt, throw it out!
Foods that are potentially hazardous need to be refrigerated to minimize bacterial growth. Refrigerator temperatures are to be maintained at 41° F or less and foods should not be kept longer than 7 days in the refrigerator. When presenting foods (serving) in a buffet style, cold foods like potato salad or cold meats, are to be kept chilled to less than or equal to 41° F.  Hot foods, like hamburgers and cooked vegetables, are to be maintained at a temperature greater than or equal to 135° F.
Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold (above 135° F or below 41° F)
Arrange for pick-up or delivery of meals so you can eat the food almost immediately, when maximum quality and safety can be ensured
If you have to hold the food for any length of time (over two hours) , keep it HOT, which means the food must have an internal temperature above 135° F. Just keeping it warm doesn't ensure safety
What if I pick up the food in the morning, but won't serve it until evening?
- If you are eating much later, the food will taste better and be safer if you refrigerate and reheat it just before serving
- Divide large quantities into shallow containers (2” or less) for quick cooling, cover loosely, and refrigerate immediately
- Always reheat cooked foods or leftovers until they are hot and steaming (165° F)
What about salads, deli meats and foods that are purchased or delivered cold?
- Remember to keep cold foods COLD (41° F or below). The life of most deli meats and foods is short. Roast beef, chicken breast, and turkey have a shorter refrigerator life than processed meats or cold cuts
- Buy reasonable quantities
- If food won't be served soon, refrigerate it immediately
- Properly wrap and freeze deli meats that won't be used within two to four days
- If entertaining, set out small amounts at a time and replace with fresh platters (rather than adding fresh food to a dish that already has food on it)
- Keep food cold on the buffet table by nesting dishes in bowls of ice
- REMEMBER most food poisoning bacteria can NOT be seen, smelled, or tasted

Food Handler Certifications: 

Food Handler Training certificate is required from the Responsible Person(s) and event assistant(s) before Food Service Application approval.
- For larger events each group handling and serving foods must have minimum 1 food handler certificate holder
Nominal Fees are associated with obtaining these training certificates, which are paid directly to the training provider and are at the expense of the applicant/organization
Training may be found at the following links: 

Food Service Workers:

Persons serving foods must have clean hands at all times, clean outer garments, adequate hair restraints (caps or hairnets), and not suffer from respiratory, intestinal, or skin infections.  In addition, the food service provider must:
Wash their hands before handling food and at frequent intervals.
Smoking in food booths or by serving areas is prohibited.  Smoke only in designated smoking areas.
Avoid direct contact with food and should instead use scoops, tongs, or disposable gloves.
Wash their hands each time they leave the stand, after taking breaks or using toilet facilities.


Ice can be obtained only in chipped, crushed, or cubed form and in single use safe plastic or wet strength paper bags filled and sealed at the manufacturer’s point of sale.  Ice that is consumed or that contacts food shall be dispensed only by food service worker with scoops, tongs, other ice-dispensing utensils or through automatic self-service, ice dispensing equipment.  Ice-dispensing utensils are to be stored on a clean surface or in the ice with the dispensing utensil’s handle extended out of the ice. 
Between uses, ice transfer receptacles are to be stored in a way that protects them from contamination and maintained separate from ice used for refrigeration purposes. Ice storage bins shall be drained through an air gap.
Ice may be obtained from UHD automatic ice dispensing equipment. Ice must be transported in containers with a low center of gravity (I.e. an ice chest and not tall beverage cart coolers.) Many spills have occurred at UHD as a result of transporting ice in tall containers (unstable while being transferred).

Illegal Vendor:

Any unauthorized or unpermitted vendor found participating in an event shall be required to leave the event premises by the UHD Police, Event and Conference Department, and/or EHS Office.

Lighting and Visual Effects:

General lighting must be bright enough to allow guests or the audience to see the aisles leading to the exits.  This prevents people from tripping or falling under normal circumstances and facilitates a quick evacuation in case of an emergency.  If mood lighting is used, someone must be assigned to stay at the control panel so the lights can be turned up immediately if the fire alarm is activated.
If you plan to use unusual lighting or visual effects, you must also develop a plan that determines how it can be accomplished in a manner that complies with the regulations and guidelines governing safe lighting.  The safety plan must be reviewed and approved by the following departments:
- Theatre Arts Director or Technical Director if it is a theatrical production within the theater.
- The EHS Office for all other events
Lighting equipment (especially high intensity) must be UL rated and positioned so curtains and decorations are not ignited.  Refer to the “Decorations” and “Electrical Extension and Power Cord”.
The vendor must follow all safety requirements which the event sponsor should give to them prior to the event.  The safety requirements are as follows:
- Equipment must be 2 Hertz, with a Flicker rate of 4 flashes per second or less, interrupted and synchronize multiple strobes
- The EHS Office highly recommends the use of a licensed operator for the strobe equipment
“Strobe lighting will be used in this production. Those with known sensitivity to strobe light should avoid viewing the (specify the time period or portion) of this show.”
Also mention if there are any other unusual effects that could startle or disturb the audience, such as gunfire.

Open Flames:

The use of candles for decoration or for lighting is not recommended. Safer alternatives for mood lighting include electronic flicker candles, flashlights, and/or battery-operated lanterns.
All plans to use candles must be reviewed and approved by the EHS Office.  Candles are only allowed during events in designated areas with fire safety precautions and ONLY with an approved Open Flame Permit.
The use of open flames (sternos, chafing dishes, candles, etc) for serving food is allowed in certain rooms if adequate safety precautions are taken. A safer option is to use electrical warming trays, crock pots or outdoor ovens (outdoor use only).
If you want to pursue the use of open flames as part of decorative arrangements or for serving food, contact the EHS Office with your proposed safety precautions. These include:
- The use of Flame Retardant Materials near and under the candles
- The use of hurricane type glass candleholders
- Not leaving lit items unattended
- Placing matches and burnt candles in water before disposal
An individual who will be on hand at the event during the entire time of the open flame will be required to attend training and a fire extinguisher will be made available for the event. 
An Open Flames Permit for Events will be issued by the EHS Office. Open Flame Permits will only be issued to those who attend Specail Events Safety Training provided by the EHS Office. 
The permit must be posted during an event that includes the following activities and/or items:
- Candles (limited with approval)
- Open flames in assembly areas (fire performing acts outdoors only)
- Sternos or chafing dishes used with food warmers
- Open burning ( barbecue pits only)
- Liquefied petroleum gases (i.e. propane for cooking or other uses – outdoors only);
- Additional training required for the use of Compressed Gas Cylinder Safety
- An ABC dry chemical fire extinguisher must be on site during the event
- Pyrotechnical effects materials or fireworks for special events  (outdoors only - City of Houston Permit required)
- Temporary membrane structures, such as tents and canopies
- Deep fry cooking in outdoor cooking booths must use vegetable or animal oils or fats only (allowed on a limited basis with approval from EHS)
- The vendor is required to have at least one listed Type ‘K’ fire extinguisher, with a current inspection tag, available during the event

Potential Hazardous Foods:

These are foods associated with potential food borne illnesses. As a rule of thumb, these foods have high water content and allow the growth of bacteria. Proper temperatures can reduce the risk factors considerably. These include food of animal origin, including shell eggs that are raw or heat-treated; a food of plant origin that is heat-treated or consists of raw seed sprouts, cut melons and un-modified garlic–in-oil mixture.  Under no circumstances shall the following potentially hazardous foods and beverages be prepared or sold at public events (unless prepared, transported and served by a city or county permitted food vendor/facility/caterer):
- Wild game such as venison, wild turkey and other non-inspected meat products
- Home canned products such as pickles or relish
- Dessert items which have a cream, whipped cream, or custard filling or icing, such as homemade pumpkin pies, non-fruits pies and eclairs
- Beverages containing raw eggs or raw egg substitute
This prohibition does not apply to potential hazardous food or beverage if prepared and packaged under condition meeting state and local food rules.  Proper cooking temperatures are to be observed when preparing meats and other foods for public consumption.  Meats and poultry products shall be cooked to the following minimum internal temperatures:
- Poultry = 165° F
- Ground meats = 155° F
- Pork, eggs, fish = 145° F
In addition, proper food storage procedures below must be followed.

Temporary Food Dealer's Permit Requirements:

A UHD Temporary Food Dealer’s Permit is required when any registered student organization, department, faculty, or staff member sells food/ food related items during their event. The Temporary Food Dealer's Permit will be provided through an approved Food Service Application. Temporary Food Dealer's Permits must be posted in a clear public view for the duration of the event.
Permits expire at the end of scheduled event. Please contact the EHS Office if extensions are needed. The Events and Conferences Department or EHS Office may suspend any permit to operate a temporary food facility or catered event if the permit holder does not comply with the requirements of these guidelines or the UHD Food Services Sanitation Manual.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding UHD Temporary Food Dealer’s Permits, please contact the EHS Office at 713-221-8040 or