The following MSNBC story about caterers having the highest risk is right on.
This has also been my experience as an investigator. The reasons for this include time and temperature abuse due to large batch cooking in advance of service sometimes 48 hours in advance, excessive handling of ready to eat foods (NoV), and facilities that are either unlicensed or woefully inadequate (cross contamination, etc, etc.). In Florida we had a campaign to get the caterers licensed.back in the 90’s. We required that catering trucks for example report daily to a commissary under inspection. We also got a state law passed (back in good old days before all food safety legislation came from industry lobbies) requiring that they put their license number up on the delivery truck and anywhere they advertised.
Unfortunately, we estimated there were hundreds if not thousands of unlicensed caterers in Florida. They stretched all the way from neighborhood ladies baking wedding cakes (for sale) to those providing full meal service in catering halls, to vehicles delivering food to work sites, and even some preparing food for large conventions.
Too bad ignorant people are willing to hire a caterer without checking to see they are licensed and inspected. We gave up on running them down as it took so much time to ferret them out, catch them, and prosecute them (and fine them a few hundred dollars). I personally uncovered dozens of unlicensed caterers in the Central Florida area just going through phone books and ads in penny-savers and newspapers. Just another hole in the safety net that few seem to care about.
Glad this data is coming to light, but fixing this will not be easy.
Also see 30.jul.10, barfblog, Doug Powell