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Topics in Food Safety

Food Handlers - Temporary Events

Frequently Used Temporary Event Forms

Contact Information


Temporary Food Establishment information

FAQ's

What is a temporary food establishment?
Temporary food service is defined as a food establishment operating at a fixed location, with a fixed menu, for not more than twenty-one consecutive days in conjunction with a single event or celebration, such as a fair or festival.

What events require a temporary food establishment permit?
Individuals or groups planning to hold events that are open to the public must obtain a permit. The Whatcom County Health Department requires that a temporary permit be obtained for each food booth or vendor operating during an event.

Public Event means an organized event which is:
Advertised in any way to the public such as flyers, newspaper articles or ads, radio, or social media
Open to the public and food is offered.

The requirements do not change if the food is being sold for profit or provided at no charge.

The following are examples of events that typically require permits
A fair, carnival, music event or circus Open houses or grand openings
Community Celebrations Pancake Breakfasts
Public exhibitions or Art walks Customer appreciation celebrations
Sporting events Bazaars
Church events open to the pubic Concerts
Craft fairs Trade Shows
Community dinners or BBQ's Farmer's Markets
Non-dairy, non-protein smoothies Commercial whipped cream
Precooked USDA inspected sausages Shortcake with berries

Are there any events that do not require a temporary food establishment permit?

Private Event
If you have a private event, you do not need a temporary food establishment permit. Private event means a private gathering restricted to members and guests of members of a family, organization, or club; where the event is not open to the general public and where food is provided without compensation such as:

  • A meeting or an event for a private or charitable organization, association, a fraternal group, or club.
  • An activity in a church or other religious congregation for members only.
  • A gathering such as a party, picnic or potluck where food is shared.
  • Private weddings or celebrations.

Bake Sale
No temporary food establishment permit is required for a nonprofit organization operating for religious, charitable, or educational purposes and selling only non-potentially hazardous baked goods. A bake sale may run in conjunction with a temporary food establishment event.

Examples of non-potentially hazardous baked goods are cookies, brownies, and cake. If you are offering baked goods with cream toppings or fillings, custard fillings such as pumpkin pie, meringue pies or cheesecakes a temporary permit is required.

Please click here for more information on bake sales.

Potlucks
Potlucks do not need a temporary food establishment permit as long as:

  1. People are gathered to share food,
  2. People attending are expected to bring food to share,
  3. There is no compensation provided to people for bringing food to the event,
  4. There is no charge for any food or beverage provided at the event and
  5. The event is not for commercial purposes.

Potlucks may not be held at permitted food establishments.

Please see the following link for safe food handling at potlucks: www.fsis.usda.gov/PDF/Cooking_for_Groups.pdf

Exempt Food
You do not need a permit from our office to offer the following foods:

  • Hot beverages that are not potentially hazardous such as coffee, tea or apple cider
  • Packaged food that does not require temperature control for safety like chips & soda.
  • Non-potentially hazardous food produced and packaged in a licensed food establishment that is served from the original container or package without direct hand contact with limited portioning directly onto single service articles. For example, BBQ sauce sampled on a plastic spoon or nuts portioned into a plastic cup.
  • Unprocessed fruits and vegetables (field cut only).
  • Packaged frozen confections produced in a licensed food establishment such as individually packaged ice cream bars.
  • Dry foods that are not ready to eat foods such as dry beans, dry grains, in shell nuts, and coffee beans.

What type of permit do I need to offer food at a temporary event?

The type of permit depends on your menu and the length of the event. Below are the different types of temporary food establishment permits available in Whatcom County.

1. Waiver: $21 for a permit to offer low risk foods at an event lasting 3 days or less.
You may only operate in one location at a time unless you apply for and obtain another temporary food permit.

Low Risk Foods include:
Unpackaged food like candy or chips Caramel Apples
Non-potentially hazardous baked goods not associated with a bake sale Espresso, iced tea, iced coffee (non-blended and made in the cup)
Cotton Candy Crushed ice drinks without dairy
Hot dogs or corn dogs Corn on the cob
Chili or soup if commercially canned French fries or onion rings
Bagels and plain cream cheese Fruit juice (pasteurized)
Ice cream - hand dipped Ice cream floats
Non-dairy, non-protein smoothies Commercial whipped cream
Precooked USDA inspected sausages Shortcake with berries
Fruit trays prepared at a permitted kitchen except cut melon Cheese, pepperoni or vegetable pizza from a permitted food establishment
Nuts out of the shell Vegetable trays prepared at a permitted kitchen
Snow cones Pies with fruit or berry fillings
Nachos containing only chips and canned cheese or commercially shredded cheese Commercially prepared cheesecakes, cream pies, pumpkin pies or custard desserts
Commercially canned spaghetti sauce with no additions Commercially pre-washed and pre-cut salad with commercially made salad dressing
Prepackaged potentially hazardous foods found at grocery stores and not opened at the event (single service yogurt) Pancake breakfast that offers only; pancakes, liquid pasteurized eggs, pre-cooked sausage, ham or bacon from a USDA processing plant
Popcorn or kettle corn  
The following items may be offered at events if the event is 4 hours or less:
Frozen soups from a commercial source
Baked Potato
Heat and serve commercially prepared frozen foods (lasagna, appetizers)
Foods prepared in a permitted food establishment and brought to the event without the need for additional assembly. For example; lasagna made at a restaurant, brought hot and served at a fund raiser.

2. Multiple Event Waiver: $40 for a permit to offer low risk foods and operating at multiple events, each event lasting 3 days or less.
This permit is valid for up to 12 months. You may only be at one location at a time, unless you apply for and obtain another temporary food establishment permit.

3. Temporary Food Establishment Permit: Single event lasting 1-21 consecutive days and not eligible for a waiver permit. If you apply:

14 days before the event: $89
13-7 days before the event: $121
2-6 days before the event: $147

If you offer low risk foods for more than 3 days or offer complex foods, you need to apply for a temporary food establishment permit. Applications turned in less than 2 business days before the event may be denied.

Complex Foods include:
(You may also offer any food items in the low risk food list)
Foods that use whole raw shell eggs Meat or seafood cooked from raw
Pulled pork - precooked or cooked from raw BBQ ribs - precooked or cooked from raw
Taco meat - precooked or cooked from raw Chicken – precooked or cooked from raw
Deli sandwiches or wraps Cut Melon
Commercially made soups, stews or chili with other ingredients added Soups, stews or chili made at the event (no homemade food allowed)
Cooked vegetables including grilled onions Smoothies made with dairy, soy or protein powder
Sushi Soft serve ice cream
Rice or beans Pasta salad or potato salad
Deep fried proteins like fish or chicken (raw or pre-cooked) Pizza with toppings other than cheese, pepperoni or vegetables, such as ham or sausage
Salads that contain potentially hazardous foods such as ham, soft cheese, cooked vegetables or cooked grains Made from scratch desserts that require temperature control for safety such as pumpkin or cream based pies
Blended espresso drinks made with dairy, soy or nut milks Frozen soup, stews or chili for events more than 4 hours
Rice or Beans Pasta salad or Potato salad
Baked potatoes for events that are longer than 4hours. Heat and serve commercially prepared frozen foods (lasagna, appetizers) for events longer than 4hours.
Foods NOT allowed at temporary food establishment events:
Raw Oysters
Salad dressings made with raw or undercooked eggs
Uncooked or undercooked hamburgers or ground beef
Unpasteurized dairy (raw milk) or foods made with un pasteurized dairy

4. Temporary Food Establishment Permit - Multiple Events: $210 for a permit to offer complex menu and operating at multiple events.
This permit is valid for up to 12 months. Each event can only last for 1-21 consecutive days.

Temporary Food Establishment Permit - Multiple Events for Mobile, Trailer or Booth

Temporary Food Establishment Permit - Multiple Events for Permanent Building

In order to operate under this permit you must operate out of a:

  1. Permanent kitchen, such as a grange hall or church, or
  2. Mobile unit or trailer that has a plumbed handwashing sink and depending on menu, a plumbed three compartment sink for utensil cleaning, or
  3. Booth that has a plumbed handwashing sink and depending on menu, a plumbed three compartment sink for utensil cleaning.

A plumbed handwashing sink must have pressurized warm (100°F-120°F) running water. Water must be heated by a mechanical hot water heater. The handwashing station must include:

Mobile Handwash Station Picture
Fresh water tank with at least five-gallon capacity
Wastewater tank at least 15% larger than the fresh water tank gallon capacity
Hot water tank to mechanically heat the water between 100°F - 120°F
Pump to pressurize the hot and cold water
All components are mounted in a cabinet or cart on wheels; and
Soap and single use towels

If you have a trailer, mobile unit or booth you must have a local commercial commissary kitchen to service your operation. A commissary is a commercial kitchen used for food preparation, equipment and food storage and food equipment cleaning. If you are using a commissary kitchen, you need to complete a commissary agreement form.

You may not use the temporary food establishment permit – multiple event, to cater private events. In order to cater in Whatcom County you must have a current catering permit with our office. For more information on becoming a caterer, please contact our office at 360-676-6724.

This permit is limited to 12 events for up to 12 months. You are not required to have one event a month, as long as the total number of events does not exceed 12 events during the permitting period. If you would like to have more than 12 events a year, you need to apply and obtain a temporary food establishment permit for each additional event.

5. Farmers Market Permit: A farmers market is defined as a food establishment operating not more than three days a week at a fixed location with a fixed menu in conjunction with an approved, recurring organized event.

Permit Category
Fee
Permit Duration - Not to exceed:
Farmers Market Grocer
$152.00
12 Months
Low Risk Single Event
$158.00
Market Season
Low Risk Multiple Event
$210.00
12 Months
Complex Menu Single Event
$315.00
Market Season
Complex Menu Multiple Event
$420.00
12 Months
Food Demonstrators
$63.00
Market Season

Farmers Market Permit Categories:

Farmer's Market Grocer
This category includes vendors that offer only pre-packaged potentially hazardous foods. No sampling of product is allowed under this permit. This permit allows you to operate at multiple locations (Wednesday and Saturday Markets) as long as you operate at only one location at a time.

Low Risk Menu
This category includes vendors that offer packaged potentially hazardous foods, unpackaged non-potentially hazardous foods prepared in an approved commissary, and unpackaged foods that are found on the low risk foods list under the waiver permit information included with this packet. Menu and food preparation steps are limited.

Under the multiple market permit you may operate at events outside the market as long as you have the same menu and the same booth set up. You may only be at one location at a time.

Complex Menu
This category includes vendors that prepare, cook, hold hot food and or reheat to order on site. Under the multiple market permit you may operate at events outside the market as long as you have the same menu and the same booth set up. You may only be at one location at a time.

Food Demonstrator
This category includes vendors who sample non-potentially hazardous food (shelf stable) from an approved food processing plant. This permit allows you to operate at multiple locations (Wednesday and Saturday Markets) and other temporary events such as fairs and festivals as long as you operate at only one location at a time.

6. Cook-off Competition: $95.00 plus $14.00 per contestant if you apply at least 14 days
before the event.

Food must be made in a commercial kitchen. Food made at home is not allowed.

If food is prepared at Whatcom County permitted food establishment and transported hot (over 135°F) to the event, each applicant qualifies for the $21 waiver permit. This may be a less expensive option, if you have a limited number of participants.

Each contestant’s booth must have a gravity flow handwashing station. Booths may only share gravity flow handwashing stations if all the handwashing stations are provided by the event coordinator. Up to two booths may share a handwashing station.

7. Food Demonstrator: $63 for a permit to sample non-potentially hazardous food. Permit is valid for 12 months.
A demonstration permit or a “demo” permit allows you to sample non-potentially hazardous food at temporary events and other location such as grocery stores and Farmer’s Markets (with pre-approval of the market coordinator). In order to qualify for a demo permit, the sampled food item must be available for sale pre-packaged and does not require refrigeration for safety. You may be asked to provide source information for the products offered for sale.

Examples are jams sampled on pretzels or oil sampled on bread. This permit is valid for up to 12 months. If you want to sample with a potentially hazardous food such as spices on chicken or sautéed vegetables, you need to apply for a temporary food establishment permit for each event.

You are exempt from permitting if you sample a non-potentially hazardous food produced and packaged in a licensed food establishment that is served from the original package, without direct hand contact, with limited portioning, directly onto or into single use articles.

For example, BBQ sauce sampled on a plastic spoon or nuts portioned into a plastic cup.

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of handwashing station do I need to have at the event?

Lack of handwashing is one of the leading causes of food borne illness. All vendors with a temporary food establishment permit need a handwashing station.

Restroom handwashing sinks cannot replace your handwashing station. The food code states that food workers must wash their hands twice after visiting the restroom – once in the restroom and once at the food service area.

Permit Type
Location of Food Service

Handwashing Station Required
(Restroom handwashing sinks cannot replace your handwashing station)

Waiver or Multiple Event Waiver Booth Gravity Flow
Waiver or Multiple Event Waiver Building with kitchen A sink dedicated only for handwashing in the food preparation and food service area. If one is not available, you must set up a gravity flow handwashing station.
Temporary Food Establishment Booth Gravity Flow
Temporary Food Establishment Building or trailer A sink dedicated only for handwashing in the food preparation and food service area. If one is not available, you must set up a gravity flow handwashing station.
Temporary Food Establishment - Multiple Event Booth, trailer or mobile unit Dedicated, plumbed handwashing sink at the site of food preparation and food service.
Temporary Food Establishment - Multiple Event Building with kitchen Dedicated, plumbed handwashing sink at the site of food preparation and food service.

Types of Handwashing stations by Permit Type

1. Vendors with a temporary food establishment waiver or a temporary food establishment permit operating out of a booth are required to have a gravity flow handwashing station set up at the site of food preparation and service.

  Gravity Handwash Sink Picture

A Gravity Flow Handwashing Station is made up of:

An insulated 5 gallon container with a continuous flow spigot filled with warm water between 100°F - 120°F

A wastewater bucket large enough to catch the water as you wash your hands

Soap and paper towels

 

Insulated containers that have a push button spigot must be retro-fitted with a continuous flow spigot.

Often times the push button spigot can be unscrewed from the insulated container and retrofitted with a continuous flow spigot. Insulated containers can be found at home improvement stores and sporting goods stores.

If you are operating out of a permanent building with a kitchen, you must have a dedicated handwashing sink in the food preparation and food service area stocked with soap, warm water and paper towels. If your event has a BBQ or other food service outside the primary kitchen, you must set up a gravity flow handwashing sink in that area as well.

2. Vendors with a temporary food establishment - multiple event permit operating out of a booth trailer or mobile unit, are required to have a plumbed handwashing sink.

A mobile plumbed handwashing sink is made up of: Mobile Handwash Station Picture
Fresh water tank with at least 5-gallon capacity; and
Wastewater tank at least 15% larger than the fresh water tank gallon capacity; and
Hot water tank to mechanically heat the water between 100°F - 120°F
Pump to pressurize the hot and cold water
Cabinet or cart for all components; and
Soap and single use towels

3. Vendors operating out of a permanent building must have a handwashing sink in the food preparation and food service area stocked with soap, warm water and paper towels. If your event has a BQQ or other food preparation outside the primary food service area, you must set up a gravity flow handwashing station in that area.

What forms of payment do you accept?
At this time we accept cash or check. Payment must accompany the application. Do not e-mail the completed application to our office.

How do I receive my permit?
Once we review and approve your permit, we will e-mail you a PDF unless you request otherwise. You will need to print a copy of the permit to post at the event.

I am not charging for the food. Do I still need a permit?
Yes. Permit fees may be waived for meal served to people in need. Contact our office at 360-676-6724 for more information.

Where do I obtain a food workers card?
Food worker cards can be obtained on line at www.foodworkercard.wa.gov. The cost is $10 paid with a credit card. You may also purchase (cash or check only) and pick up the food worker card at our office during business hours, but the testing must still be done on-line.

I have a current food worker card. Do I still need a temporary food establishment permit?
Yes. At least one person must have a food worker card and must be present at all times during food preparation and service. A food worker card alone does not allow you to offer food. You also need a temporary food establishment permit.

I am organizing an event and I want to invite multiple food vendors, what do I need to do?
You need to complete the coordinator’s checklist. We ask that you submit this paperwork at least one month before your event. You may add food vendors once the application is submitted, just contact our office with the information. Please note that if it less than 14 days before the event, food vendors may be required to pay a higher permit fee.

I am a permitted caterer in Whatcom County. Do I need a permit to offer food at a temporary event?
Caterers are not exempt from temporary food establishment permits even though they may currently have a permit. Caterers who choose to operate at a temporary event must apply for a temporary food establishment permit.

What type of equipment do I need to operate a temporary food establishment event?
In addition to a handwashing sink you need to have enough functioning equipment to keep potentially hazardous food at the proper temperature.

Protection from contamination The booth must have an overhead cover when located outdoors. You must position the overhead cover or tent so that it is located over storage areas, food preparation, cooking and serving areas. Walls are required when it is necessary to keep food and food equipment protected from the elements.
Cold Holding If you use ice chests ensure you have enough ice to completely submerge food so that it can hold food at 41F or less. Keep ice chests and refrigerators out of direct sunlight.
Hot Holding Equipment must be able to hold food at 135F or more. Sterno chaffers are not allowed at events unless the event is indoors and less than 4 hours.
Thermometer A thermometer is needed to ensure foods are holding properly and are cooked to the proper temperatures.
For more information on setting up and operating temporary food establishment please see:
Checklist for Temporary Food Establishment Operation

I’m an out of County food vendor. What type of permit do I need to offer food at an event? Can I make food at my restaurant and serve it at a Whatcom County event?
Out of County vendors need a temporary food establishment permit. The type of permit depends on menu and duration of event. In addition, complex food preparation may need to occur in a Whatcom County commissary kitchen. Please contact our office at 360-676-6724 for more information.

I have a current permit for operating a mobile unit in Whatcom County. Do I need an additional permit to operate at a temporary event?
Permitted mobile units may operate anytime, anywhere in Whatcom County including events (with the coordinators permission). As long as you bring the mobile unit to the event and are offering the same menu items as listed in your approved plan of operation, no additional permits are needed from our office. Mobile units must have a local commissary kitchen to service the mobile unit.

If you have a mobile unit, but want to operate out of a booth for an event, you must apply for and obtain a temporary food establishment permit, even if the menu is the same. If you are interested in operating a mobile unit please read the Mobile Food Plan Review Packet for more information.

What permit do I need to operate at the Northwest Washington Fair (NWWF)?
If you plan to operate at the NWWF, you will need a NW Washington Fair Permit. These permits are valid for the length of the Fair only.

If you have a current temporary food establishment permit – multiple event or a multiple location farmers market permit you may operate at the NWWF without additional permitting if you offer the same menu items.

What type of produce am I allowed to offer at a temporary food establishment event?
Produce must be purchased pre-washed or washed at a commercial kitchen or permitted food establishment. Produce washing is not allowed at the event site unless the venue has a dedicated produce preparation sink. No produce washing is allowed at a residential kitchen.

Where do I clean utensils?
If your event is one day, bring enough extra utensils to change every 4 hours and to replace any that are dropped or become contaminated. Utensils that come in contact with potentially hazardous foods must be changed every 4 hours if utensil cleaning facilities are not available on site.

If your event is more than 1 day and you are applying for a temporary food establishment permit, you need to have a plumbed three compartment sink or commercial dishwasher to wash and sanitize utensils. If the event venue does not have a plumbed three compartment sink or commercial dishwasher, you must have a commissary agreement with a local commercial kitchen. If you have a food establishment permit in Whatcom County, you may use your dishwashing facilities for utensil cleaning.

Some menu items, like smoothies made with dairy, soy or protein products, require frequent cleaning and vendors will need access to a plumbed three compartment sink at the event site.

Whatcom County does not allow the “three tub” method for utensil washing and sanitizing at temporary events.

My proposed menu requires advanced preparation of food. Can I make and prepare food at home?
You may not make food at home for sale to the public unless it is for a bake sale. If your menu requires advanced preparation it must be done in a commercial kitchen. The kitchen must have the equipment to support your menu.

Only foods requiring limited preparation are allowed at the event. You may not prepare any foods on site that require multiple steps or extensive assembly.

Can I cook food, cool it down and reheat it later for service?
No. Hot food must be made the day of the event, held hot and served. Any leftover hot food must be discarded and may not be saved and reserved to the public.

I would like to have a petting zoo at my event. What are the requirements?
Operators of petting zoos, county fairs, pony rides, or any similar settings that encourage contact with animals must post a warning sign for visitors about the potential risk of disease. They are to provide easy access to handwashing stations, or as an alternative, an approved method using hand sanitizers. Signs reminding visitors to wash their hands must also be posted at each exit of animal exhibit.
www.doh.wa.gov/YouandYourFamily/IllnessandDisease/AnimalTransmittedDiseases/RulesandGuidelines/AnimalVenueOperator.aspx

Do I need any additional permits to have a temporary food establishment event?
The local municipally may require a permit for gathering in a public area or to vend food on a public right of way. Contact the city or county in which you are operating for more information.

How do I find out more information?
If you have additional questions, please call our office to leave a message or schedule an appointment.
You can contact our office at 360-676-6724. We are open 8:30AM-4:30PM Monday through Friday except holidays. General e-mails can be sent to: environmentalhealth@whatcomcounty.us

We are located at:
509 Girard Street
Bellingham, WA 98225-4005

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