General Contact Number: (530) 621-5567

Environmental Health

Temporary Food Event - Frequently Asked Questions

How can I be exempt from the Special Event requirements?

If your event is for members and guests only and not open to the general public.

Food must be prepared and served during the event.  No food stored or prepared at home can be sold or given away at any event.

What is a special event?

A special event is a community event where food will be sold or given away to the public. Community events include the county fair, harvest and holiday fairs, fundraising events such as crab feeds, spaghetti feeds, chili cook-offs and other similar type of events that are open to the public.

My organization has a pancake breakfast once a month to raise funds, does the organization have to meet the special event requirements?

Events such as pancake breakfasts, school bake sales, church suppers, or other similar type of events, where the food that will be sold or given away to its members and their guests only, are considered private events. Private events do not need to meet the special event requirements or obtain a health permit. The event must not be held more than 3 days within a 90 day period and the advertising must be limited.

What does limited advertising mean?

Limited advertising could be a sign in front of the community or church hall or flyers passed out only to members to remind them of the upcoming event. Advertising in the newspaper, a banner across the road, flyers distributed to public areas or other methods that clearly invites the general public implies that the event is a community event that needs to meet the standards for food served to the public.

I understand that our community event needs an event coordinator, what does an event coordinator do and what's their responsibility for the event?  

An event coordinator can be a person or an organization. Usually it's the person who is organizing the event. The event coordinator is required to provide the Environmental Health Department information about the food service that will be offered during the special event and obtain a coordinator's permit.

Our organization is going to sell food at a special event, do we need to get a permit?  

Yes, each food vendor is required to obtain a health permit prior to a special event. To obtain a health permit a food vendor needs to complete a health permit application and provide information on the type of food that will be served at their booth. In addition to the application, information on how the food will be handled and served during the event needs to be provided.

What kinds of food are we allowed to sell at a special event?

There are four (4) general types of temporary food service. Each type has some examples of foods that would fit into that category, and the basic requirements for each.

  • Non-potentially hazardous / Pre-packaged food
    • Some food examples are canned/bottled soda and water, candy, bagged cotton candy, bagged popcorn, bagged chips, individually bagged popsicles, etc.
    • Requirements: hand washing, overhead protection, durable floor surface.
  • Non-potentially hazardous / Unpackaged food:
    • Some food examples are sno-cones, cotton candy, popcorn, caramel apples, pretzels, etc.
    • Requirements: hand washing and utensil/equipment washing (bucket systems may be acceptable), fully enclosed facility (building or booth - see handout).
  • Potentially hazardous / Prepackaged food:
    • Some food examples are boxed pizzas and wrapped sandwiches from an approved food facility, individually-wrapped ice cream bars, individually-wrapped hot dogs, etc.
    • Requirements: hand washing, overhead protection, durable floor surface, temperature control, thermometer

  • Potentially hazardous / Unpackaged food:
    • Some food examples are BBQ's, tacos, potatoes, hot dogs, hamburgers, etc.
    • Requirements: hand washing and utensil/equipment washing (bucket systems are acceptable if the operation is sanitary and the menu allows), fully enclosed facility (booth or building - see handout), temperature control, thermometer.

What is a potentially hazardous food?

It is food that is capable of supporting rapid micro-organism growth that can cause food-borne illness.

What is a prepackaged food?  

It is a properly labeled food prepared and packaged by the manufacturer at an approved food facility. It is packaged in such a way to prevent any human contact, and is distributed to the consumer in the original package.

What kind of food handling and booth requirements do we have to have to set up at a special event?  

Your Environmental Health Specialist can provide you with an easy to follow handout with information on the requirements for setting up a food booth and safe food handling. The handout explains the type of structure and equipment required based on the type of foods you will be serving. Foods that are wrapped/packaged or are considered non-hazardous require less restrictive requirements than those foods that are potentially hazardous or un-packaged.

For safe food handling, the handout provides procedures to verify foods are protected from contamination and monitoring for proper temperatures are explained in detail. In addition to booth and safe food requirements, adequate facilities for utensil and hand washing is also discussed in the handout.

Does our organization need to have a certified food safety operator on staff to have a special event?

No, temporary food facilities are not required to have a person who is food safety certified in order to serve food at an event. Only annually permitted food facilities are required to have a certified employee on staff.

If we hire an El Dorado County permitted hot dog cart or espresso vendor to provide food at our event, do we need to get a Special Event permit?

Possibly not. The law states that all events must have an event coordinator and obtain a health permit where one or more temporary food vendors are operating. However, if the event is using only El Dorado County permitted food vendor(s) such as a food vehicle, cart, mobile food prep unit, etc., then an event coordinator permit will not be required. Although an event coordinator permit may not be required, the event coordinator is still required to submit an action plan to this department on how the food service will be provided during the event.

For more specific information contact your Environmental Health Specialist:
Placerville Office (530) 621-5300 or South Lake Tahoe Office (530) 573-3450