So...as you can imagine... I have been thinking a lot about what COVID 19 might mean for upcoming weddings and events.
With most of the world in special measures, implications for UK supply chains, large gatherings, travel, etc are unclear at this stage, so I though it best to start a conversation about this sooner rather than later to hopefully reassure and clarify matters for my clients.
I’ll lay out some questions that seem to be conversation points within supplier circles right now below. It is in no way my intention to panic anyone, but it seems that the time has come to talk about what policies are in place. Don't forget to read through all the T&Cs on the website though.
Of course, hopefully this will blow through with the minimum of disruption for us all. In the meantime, I appreciate your continued support and trust.
Be assured, I am doing all I can to safeguard both your cake and your loved ones.
Firstly, it's important to say... I am following NHS, FSA and WHO recommended measures to try to protect myself and my clients (and my family btw, but that's a separate conversation).
Hygiene and food-safety is always a big consideration when producing food for the public, which is why any professional supplier will regularly update their Food Safety training and certifications, as well as being registered with the EHO (Environmental Health Office), constantly researching and updated their knowledge of current FSA (Food Standards Agency) guidelines and keeping abreast of other conversation points on food safety within the industry as a whole. Now more than ever, this plays a part in keeping our clients safe and insulated from bad practices.
As you can imagine, in the past few weeks, I have proactively reviewed my procedures in light of this increased threat and enhanced my policies well beyond what would be considered normally necessary.
I am now taking extra measures such as a two stage storage policy (see below), because tbh, the information available about how long the virus lives on surfaces is pretty inconsistent and patchy at this point and I am taking no chances.
Storage of ingredients and materials
What is clear is that, according to advice from the WHO and CDC labs around the world (and contrary to lots of social media posts I’ve seen), COVID-19 seems to follow a similar contagion and surface contamination path as other Coronaviruses like SARS and MERS, meaning that it lives for much longer on surfaces than the seasonal flu or other common virus and is much more contagious.
On porous surfaces the virus appears to live for several hours, on non-porous surfaces it is estimated to live up to 9 days, depending on environmental factors.
In light of this, I have put in special measures to minimise possible transfer of the virus from ingredients and give time for it to die off on package surfaces before it can come close to the Kasserina kitchen.
Any ingredients that don't need to be refrigerated are being stored separately for several days untouched before being transferred to the in use storage containers to allow any viral contamination to die off on package surfaces, etc. (any non-porous packaging is being left for longer and being treated with antivirals).
Ingredients that do need to be refrigerated and have shorter shelf-lives are being, washed / treated with antivirals as appropriate, and stored separately in the fridge in an enhanced 2 stage rotation system.
The same is true of tools and materials (cake boards, boxes, etc).
Cancellations and postponements
Some UK suppliers are now reporting that events are being cancelled or postponed due to family members being unable to travel, venues being in lock-down, etc.
As per my standard T&Cs, if you are forced to cancel or postpone your event any monies paid are non-refundable. In the case of it being due to COVID-19, as with any other postponement, I will try to carry these orders forward where possible to your rescheduled date. Of course, this is only possible where I have availability for the new date, and rescheduling will be on a first come, first served basis so please do let me know sooner rather than later.
Any refunds will be considered case by case and agreed only with express confirmation from Kasserina in writing. As a rule, refunds will not be considered unless the cancellation was as a result of Kasserina being unable to complete an order. In those cases, please refer to your wedding insurers for details of your cover.
Next thing to say, is that although I do have a decent stock of ingredients in, everything has a shelf life (and I don’t have a spare warehouse standing by) so it’s not possible buy in everything I might need for the next 6-9 months and guarantee supply if the world falls apart over next few months.
Thankfully, after the initial panic buying episodes we all saw when, along with loo roll, flour and sugar seemed to suddenly be very hard to source (and Haribo star mix for some reason?), things are starting to calm down on that front and supermarkets are slowly coming back up to reasonable levels of stock on most items.
Also, while supplies may be theoretically available for me to purchase, we don’t yet know what impact the virus may have on suppliers’ abilities to distribute stocks from warehouse to customer.
So, while I’m doing everything I can to make sure I have a good supply buffer, and everything is well under control at the moment… I have to warn clients now that there is a small chance this could effect what I am able to produce in the future if the worst does happen.
For example, a shortage of soured cream may mean that I have to substitute a different recipe of chocolate cake, a shortage of eggs may mean that I am forced to use an egg substitute, an inability to get hold of my preferred fondant may mean I have to use whatever is available… Not ideal and hopefully it will never come to that, but I’m a worrier and I have to consider the worst case scenarios…
Rest assured that I will do all I can to make sure normal service is in no way interrupted, but these are unprecedented and unpredictable events so all I can do is try to plan ahead and minimise any possible impact. I hope you will bear with me and trust me to do my best for you.
Please see the standard T&Cs on the Kasserina website for details. These predate the current situation.
In case of supplier illness
Again, as per my standard T&Cs, if I or anyone else associated with Kasserina becomes ill or is suspected of being exposed to COVID-19 (just as if I had contracted a seasonal gastric illness, NOVO virus or similar), I would be unable to complete your order under UK food-safety law and FSA guidance.
In this case I would put a call out to my network of cake makers in the area in the hope that someone else could help you, but I cannot guarantee service, not can I guarantee their work or that the cost would be the same.
Food suppliers being forced to cancel service due to possible contagion is a standard UK food safety requirement under law and I cannot be held responsible for either the lack of cake, nor any perceived damages incurred. Your safety and the safety of your guests trumps all other considerations.
In case of having to self-isolate, although I/we may not be actually showing signs of illness at the time, this will be treated in the same way as having a confirmed illness to protect the public, including you and your guests. This is in line with the UK Government’s classification of isolation as being on a par with having a confirmed diagnosis under statutory sick-pay.
So, in summery...
I hate to make everything sound so formal and cold, but there's nothing so scary as not knowing so I felt it's better to be clear at this stage. I hope you all understand.