Requirements for mobile caterers at events

Food hygiene


  • Checks - food in a new size or type may cook differently, so make sure the thickest part reaches over 75°C for about one minute (meat juices should run clear of any red or pink juice). A probe thermometer can be used, disinfected between checks
  • Pre-cooking - cool food for at most 90 minutes before placing in a refrigerator. Divide large portions to cool more quickly
  • Re-heating - when re-heating foods, a steaming centre indicates thorough heating
  • Hot holding - equipment such as bain-marie, or radiant heaters can be used for holding food if it is above 63°C, or throw away after two hours
  • Eggs - always cook eggs until the yoke is firm unless the customer asks you to leave it soft. Eggs should not be used after their 'best before' date. Keep away from warm places, and preferably refrigerate them. Lion Brand eggs are recommended
  • Barbecuing - heating is much less predictable than range cooking so checking that food is properly cooked is more important for each item. For example, split sausages and look at the centre of burgers or cuts of meat

Preventing cross-contamination

  • Cloths used for wiping hands, surfaces or equipment will spread contamination next time they are used, so disposable paper sheets should be used
  • Tongs and spoons avoid the need to touch food - one per food
  • Separate equipment/boards/surfaces must be used for cooked and raw food
  • Some foods, eg buns and fizzy drinks, may be stored outside the stall if well wrapped to protect them from contamination, including animals
  • Hands must be washed after handling, raw foods or waste, and after going to the toilet
  • Gloves must be changed frequently as hands should be washed
  • Clothing from home must be covered with clean over-clothing
  • Jewellery, other than plain bands, should be removed before handling food
  • Hair should be covered or tied back
  • Pests spread contamination - cover food and stop them getting into the stall

Holding food cold

  • Refrigerators - pre-cool refrigerators before placing food in them. If fridges are without power for a journey, the food may warm to dangerous temperatures
  • Cool boxes - cool boxes are only useful in extending the time perishable foods can be used in the trading day. The food would have to be thrown away at the end of the day. Perishable foods become unsafe when left above 8°C for more than four hours
  • Thermometers - all food refrigerators should have their temperature monitored. The best temperature is 1°C to 4°C but 8°C is the upper legally permitted limit
  • Date marking - some way of making sure old food is not used by mistake is important. Stickers with a 'throw away' date should be put on food you produce more than a day in advance. Most foods will keep for 48 hours if properly prepared, wrapped, and refrigerated


  • A basin with anti-bacterial soap must be provided for hand washing
  • A sink with detergent must be provided for equipment washing
  • Warm (or both hot and cold) water must be instantly available at sinks and basins
  • Waste water must drain to a gulley or container
  • Sanitiser must be used on food contact surfaces and touch points, eg work tables, switches, handles
  • The stall must be designed to be easily cleaned

Good management

  • All businesses must have a written plan for producing safe food, and record checks to prove that the plan works. One Government endorsed scheme is 'Safer Food, Better Business'
  • Training - everyone on the stall must be trained in preparing safe food, but at least one must have a recognised certificate in food safety
  • Fitness to work - no-one must handle food during or within 48 hours of diarrhoea or vomiting. Sores must be covered
  • Registration - the mobile food business must be registered with the local council where the unit is usually left overnight
  • Selling alcohol will require a licence. Trading in the street or late at night may also need a licence. Contact your local council to find out more

Food quality


  • Avoid glass, brittle plastic and unsealed wood in preparation areas
  • Equipment used for meats cannot be used on food described as 'vegetarian' unless thoroughly washed


  • Don't guess if someone asks about ingredients - check
  • Keep ingredient lists from opened packs at the stall
  • Allergens can easily cross-contaminate other foods so let people know if you use any of the allergens they are concerned about


  • Buy only from reputable suppliers, close to the time you need it
  • Keep a record of what you buy and from where; at least keep receipts


  • Food and drink must be described fairly and so that customers can understand what they are buying
  • English must always be one of the languages used on labels
  • Labelling is a complicated area of food law, so contact your local council if in doubt

Health and safety at work

Vehicle movements

  • Get help reversing if needed; keep your helper in sight while reversing
  • Follow marked routes and marshals' instructions
  • Wear high visibility clothing when working near moving vehicles

Manual handling

  • Use handling aids, eg get a wheeled generator, and use trolleys/trucks
  • Get help moving trailers or other heavy loads

Trip hazards

  • Take care with cables, packaging, stock and guy ropes

Escape routes

  • Do not encroach into designated or implied gangways


  • Keep doors locked
  • Decant money to a safe place
  • Instruct staff not to resist violent robbery
  • Know how to call help


  • Residual current circuit breakers should used on mains supply, possibly combined with an over load device
  • Equipment must be appropriately fused
  • Connections must be strong and may need to be water-proof. 'Chocolate box' type are best avoided, as they are safe only in dry and well-protected places, eg clipped behind non-conductive panelling
  • Cabling must be supported to avoid strain on joints, protected from wear through holes using grommets, and not run on the floor unless protected from impacts
  • Get 'portable appliance tests' (PAT tests) yearly on metal equipment, eg urns, toasters
  • Check that wiring has not become loose or damaged each time equipment is used
  • Generators must be placed or shielded so that people, especially children, cannot come into contact with the electrically charged conductors or hot parts. Exhaust fumes must not accumulate in enclosed spaces


  • Surfaces - use oven gloves; cool before cleaning
  • Oil - cool well before draining
  • Fire - avoid loose clothing; place cloths, packaging and flammable materials away from flames
  • Keep petrol in proper containers away from heat and the public


  • Carry both a fire blanket and a powder extinguisher

First aid

  • Keep blue plasters and a standard small kit


  • Waste food - waste raw meat must not be used for animal feed. Arrange a specialist collection of such waste or cook before disposal
  • Cooking oil - recycle through your supplier or a local collector
  • Water - drinking and washing water must be from the mains and fresh every day
  • Noise - shield people from generators with solid screens as far as possible; play amplified must at reasonable levels
  • Fumes - direct generator exhaust away from neighbours; use a tall flue for the cooking canopy


These are not legal requirements but could be your unique selling point.


  • Look at liquid petroleum gas engine conversion
  • Consider an aerofoil to streamline towed stalls
  • Switch off engine when not strictly necessary to have it running


  • Roof lights allow in natural light
  • Photovoltaic (PV or solar) panels can support light electrical loads
  • LED or even fluorescent lights may be run of a battery rather than generator


  • Use washable crockery
  • Use paper rather than plastic disposables
  • Sort waste for recycling


  • Buy stock on the day
  • Rotate stock
  • Cook to order if possible

Local food

  • Less transport means less CO² created to get it to you


  • Provide a choice of healthier options
  • Lower sugar, eg make artificial sweetener and diet drinks available
  • Lower salt, let customers add more if they wish
  • Lower fat, eg have skimmed or semi-skimmed milk available
  • Higher fibre, eg wholemeal bread option
  • Make fruit available
  • Use more fresh vegetables
  • Avoid over-browning when cooking
  • Organic options


  • Do not allow smoking near the stall
  • Use chloride bleach sparingly

Contacts and further information

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