There are  a number of do’s and dont’s to think about when it comes to catering at events, both as an organiser and a delegate. Here are MEETinLEEDS’ top 5 foods to steer clear of, courtesy of our Health and Safety Manager, Geoff Tooley.


MEETinLEEDS have a recurring nightmare about biting into that nice juicy chicken burger and finding something even ‘fowler’ between the buns… We have to apologise for the terrible pun: we take food safety very seriously – all of the catering available at conferences and events at the University of Leeds are serviced by the 5* Food Hygiene Rated outlets of Great Food at Leeds.

However, there are a number of foods you should try to avoid as both a conference organiser and as a delegate. You will know the obvious dishes to steer clear of tucking into when networking (barbecued ribs and garlic bread at a boardroom meeting anyone? We thought not) but we would like to highlight the foods that have the potential to turn a dream event into a gastrointestinal nightmare.

Let us introduce Geoff Tooley, Health and Safety Training Manager (among other things) at MEETinLEEDS. He takes his job very seriously – he even asked for a tour of the kitchen at his local take away to ensure it was up to his exacting standards – so over to Geoff with his 5 foods to avoid at conferences and events:


Cooked Rice Salad


Rice has always been top of the pops of the foods with the potential to cause harm. Bacillus Cereus is a particularly clever bacterium found in rice and can cause severe nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea. It is able to survive cooking to high temperatures due to it producing a toxin which is highly resistant to heat. Once the temperature falls within 10°C – 50°C the bacteria’s population can double every 30 minutes, which means that the rice salad that has been left on a buffet table for 4 hours could have a bacterial army that has multiplied 256 times over! Stay safe and avoid the rice salad at the next event you attend…

A Delicious Alternative – We avoid eating rice salad which is stored outside strict temperature control and stick to the classic Seasonal Salad with Vinaigrette Dressing. If you do need a carb kick try something like Farfalle Pasta with Capers Olives and Peppers. You will not regret it.




Listeria can cause serious illness, and even death in the case of vulnerable groups in the population, such as pregnant women and their unborn babies, newborn babies, the very young, and the elderly and infirm. The bacteria are widespread in the environment and can contaminate a wide range of food, including pâté. So avoid the spreadable meat paste – it won’t be as good as in the Ardennes anyway.

A Delicious Alternative – Try a vegetarian alternative such as Middle Eastern Flatbread with Houmous Dip or any of the scrummy light bights we have on offer – not a pâté in sight and locally sourced where possible.


Cooked Meats


Cooked meats support the growth of a multitude of bacteria. Be aware of anything that is left out of temperature control for too long. Cold cooked meats can be displayed above 8°C for a maximum of 4 hours, hot cooked meats can be displayed below 63°C for up to two hours. For more details see the Hygiene Guide Booklet from the Food Standards Agency.

A Delicious Alternative – All deliveries include written guidelines detailing times by which food items must be consumed or disposed of to guarantee food safety. So tuck into our tempting Mediterranean Style Platter which includes Parma Ham, Salami and Chorizo, or delve into the Spicy Chicken Balti safe in the knowledge you are in good hands.


Chocolate Mousse


Chocolate mousse may seem innocuous, mainly because it is delicious, but it is one of many traditional desserts that may contain raw egg. Eggs may be contaminated with Salmonella or Campylobacter, which cause diarrhoea, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting and fever. A Food Standards Agency survey of campylobacter in chicken on retail sale in the UK between May 2007 and September 2008 reported that campylobacter was present in 65% of the fresh chicken samples tested, and in this case we know that the chicken came before the egg…

Government advice is still that eggs in an uncooked form are not to be used, and that it is safer to use pasteurised liquid egg yolks, which is what we use at the University of Leeds. The taste is exactly the same, without the risk of your delegates getting a nasty case of food poisoning.

A Delicious Alternative – Great Food at Leeds have a fantastic Mini Chocolate and Pear Pudding is gooey and decadent. There are also a number of options that are not quite as indulgent, yet still delicious, for those that are eating a little healthier.



peanut-624601_1280There are a couple of reasons you should be wary of nuts: the fact that many people are allergic to nuts and the bowls-of-nuts-are-full-of-urine rumour.

You don’t have to avoid serving dishes with nuts in, just ensure that it is clearly stated to your delegates (we always adhere to the new Food Information for Consumers Regulation and have friendly, helpful staff on hand to answer any questions) and make sure you know which delegates have any specific dietary requirements. You don’t want an Apprentice-style debacle!

We have all heard that the bowl of peanuts at a bar will contain at least 21 samples of urine, faeces and other delightful entities, but there hasn’t been a scientific study to back up this claim. So, let’s go with the verified fact that 40% of people carry the bacteria Staphylococcus Aureus in their bodies and on their hands. This is the bacteria that causes chaos in hospitals if the guise of MRSA, and even though we are not inclined to believe everything we read in the paper – you can do the maths…

Geoff’s Advice – Practice good personal hygiene and wash your hands thoroughly when you go to the toilet, prepare any food or go for a cigarette – our staff do! Should you see someone visit the bathroom and not uphold the etiquette of washing their hands tell them about MRSA, it might well have them running back to the sink.


Visit the Great food at Leeds website for the latest seasonal, locally sourced catering at the University of Leeds.