Food Catering Requirements - EH: Minnesota Department of Health

Safe Food is Good Business

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Every day, Minnesota food establishments provide food service at events such as weddings, graduation parties or business conferences. The challenges of safely preparing, storing, and transporting large volumes of food typically associated with catered events present increased food safety risks. This Web page highlights important requirements and safety considerations for food establishment operators who want to cater in Minnesota.

On this page:
Menu, food flow and equipment
Keeping food safe
Frequently asked questions


Food establishments that prepare food under contract in support of an event such as a reception, party, luncheon, conference, ceremony or trade show must be licensed. All caterers operating in Minnesota, including those based in neighboring states, must operate in compliance with the Minnesota food code.

Food establishments in Minnesota are licensed by a variety of different agencies. The establishment’s location and menu determine which agency will issue the license. To find out which agency will issue a license, see the Licensing website. Contact the agency that issues the license for the establishment for more information about how the Minnesota food code applies to your establishment.

Other ordinances, such as, zoning, building, and liquor may apply.

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Minnesota food code requires one full-time Minnesota certified food manager (CFM) in most food establishments. To find out more about CFM requirements, training and certification see the Minnesota Certified Food Manager (CFM) website.

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Menu, food flow and equipment

Menu and food flow determine the type of equipment required and whether the operation can be approved. Menu changes may affect equipment requirements. Food flow includes all receiving, storage, preparation and service steps.

Food must be adequately protected when transported, stored or displayed to prevent cross-contamination or contamination by dust, insects or other sources. Food grade containers capable of maintaining food at safe temperatures in a sanitary manner are required for delivery or catering. Food, equipment and vehicles must be kept clean.

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Keeping food safe

A caterer is responsible for maintaining control of and ensuring the safety of the food from receiving to service.

When food is being prepared for a catering event, the following can increase the risk of a foodborne illness outbreak:

  • Poor employee health and hygiene
  • Improper cooking temperatures and times
  • Food from unsafe sources
  • Improper hot and cold holding temperatures and times
  • Cross-contamination and contaminated equipment

Some effective control measures to reduce the risk of a foodborne illness outbreak are:

  • Exclude ill employees, wash hands properly, and limit bare hand contact with food.
  • Cook raw animal foods to at least the minimum temperatures and times.
  • Verify food sources and evaluate received foods for temperature abuse, cross-contamination and labeling.
  • Avoid the temperature danger zone (between 41°F and 140°F).
  • Properly store food and wash, rinse, and sanitize food-contact surfaces.

The Food Business Fact Sheets website provides more information about Minnesota food code requirements, such as employee personal hygiene, temperature and time requirements for foods, serving locally grown produce in food facilities, cooling potentially hazardous foods, and safe operation of a food establishment.

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Frequently asked questions

Can more than one business operate out of the same location?

Yes. Any facility used for catering operations must meet construction standards appropriate to the menu and volume of food prepared in that kitchen. Each operator in a shared space must obtain a license to operate at that location.

Can caterers cook and assemble food on site at contracted events?

Yes. Foods may be cooked and assembled on site when control measures are followed to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Each catering business is unique and operators should discuss menu and food flow, volume and timing, equipment, cleaning and sanitizing, and utilities with their inspector to determine specific requirements.

Are there additional requirements a caterer needs to consider?

Yes. Caterers must meet safe operation requirements including water supply, sewage disposal, and utilities. Before providing food catering services contact your inspector or licensing agency for plan review requirements.

MDH or the agency issuing the license must approve food service plans before new construction or remodeling begins. MDH plan review resources are available at the Plan Review website.

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Updated Wednesday, October 28, 2015 at 03:08PM