How to get started
Permits and licenses
Preparing food for sale
At your booth or cart
How to get started
- I want to sell food at a local farmer’s market, and maybe at a community festival in the summer. How do I get started?
There are several steps to take before you can sell food to the public and it’s best to start early. Everything you need to know is outlined in the following documents:
- Requirements for food vendors (PDF)
- Food vendor information (PDF)
- Fee schedule and definitions (PDF)
- Coordinator Checklist (PDF)
- I plan to sell food at more than one fair or market this year. What will it cost? Costs vary. First you will need to have a Food Plan Review. This is a one-time requirement and fee. See current fee schedule for Food Plan Review fees. You will also need to purchase a Multiple Event (Itinerant) permit which allows you to offer food to the public throughout the year, at any event in Clark County. The Multiple Event permit allows you to sell at as many events as you want in a calendar year. This permit is for one operation. If you plan to have more than one operation happening at the same time, each operation will need a separate permit. The cost of the Multiple Event (Itinerant) permit fee varies, depending upon the complexity level of the food and food preparation steps. See the current fee schedule for more information. Lastly, everyone involved with food preparation and service will also need a Washington Food Worker Card.
Permits and licenses
How can I get licensed to operate a food cart?
Food carts with limited menus such as espresso stands can be allowed. Check with local building and land use rules before applying for a food permit. Mobile food carts are allowed- see Mobile Unit Application (PDF).
Do I need a business license in order to sell items at the farmer’s market and community festivals that have food booths?
Yes. A state and a local license are needed when selling taxable food items. In addition, each city requires permits. Contact the Washington Department of Licensing and the city where the food will be sold.
I want to make and sell food. Are there foods that don’t require a permit?
Yes, several foods are exempt from permit (PDF). Baked goods are only exempt from permit requirements for non-profit organizations. See #13 on the Exempt from Permit form for a complete description of this exception. Submit an Exempt from Permit application (PDF) to Clark County Public Health.
What are the fees for selling food at markets, festivals or street fairs?
View the fee schedule and definitions (PDF) of the different permit types and establishments.
I want to sell commercially packaged foods such as ice cream bars, chips, cookies, and candy bars. Do I need a permit?
A permit from Clark County Public Health is not required to sell commercially-packaged, non-potentially hazardous foods. If the foods you want to sell are listed on the Exempt from Permit list (PDF), a permit is not required from either Clark County Public Health or the Washington Department of Agriculture.
If you plan to package any foods yourself before selling them, you will need a license from the Washington Department of Agriculture. Refer to the Fee Schedule and Definitions (PDF) and contact Clark County Public Health (360) 397-8428 to help you determine what permits are needed.
What if I want to sell something simple such as cupcakes, espresso, or hot dogs?
Yes, a permit from Clark County Public Health is required when offering or selling any foods to the public, including at venues such as farmer’s markets, holiday bazaars and school fundraisers.
Baked goods are only exempt from permit requirements for non-profit organizations. See #13 on the Exempt from Permit list (PDF) for a complete description of this exception. Refer to the Fee Schedule and Definitions (PDF) to determine what kind of permit will be needed to sell cupcakes, espresso or hotdogs.
I want to sell uncut fruits and vegetables I raise. Do I need a license or permit?
You don't need a license to sell produce you grow, but a license from the Washington State Department of Agriculture is required to sell produce at a location other than where it was grown. A state business license and local business license may also be required. The sale of whole and uncut fruits and vegetables does not require a permit from Clark County Public Health.
What are potentially hazardous foods? Potentially hazardous foods (PHF) need to be kept hot at 135°F or above or cold at 41° F or below for safety. PHFs include meat, fish, poultry, cooked starches (such as rice, potatoes and pasta), sliced melons, sprouts, fresh herb and garlic-in-oil mixtures, dairy products, and cooked produce. Cut leafy greens and cut tomatoes are considered potentially hazardous foods and need to be kept at 41°F or below.
"Cut leafy greens" means fresh leafy greens whose leaves have been cut, shredded, sliced, chopped, or torn. The term "leafy greens" includes iceberg, romaine, leaf lettuce, butter lettuce, baby leaf, escarole, endive, spring mix, spinach, cabbage, kale, arugula and chard. The term "cut" does not include removing and discarding the exterior leaves. The term "leafy greens" does not include herbs such as cilantro or parsley.
Who needs a food worker card?
All food workers (paid, family, and volunteer) of annual permit holders must obtain a Washington State Food Worker card. When working under a temporary event permit, there must be at least one person with a Washington State Food Worker Card present at all times.
Food worker cards from other states and other training certification programs may not be substituted. Food handler testing is available at www.foodworkercard.wa.gov.
How long does it take to process my permit application to sell food at the farmer’s market?
Please allow 2 full weeks (10 business days) for your permit application to be processed.
In addition to thoroughly reviewing permit applications Public Health Food Safety Specialists also conduct routine inspections of all food establishments in the county (there are more than 1500!) Our staff also inspects all temporary events throughout the year such as holiday bazaars where food is sold, as well as all new restaurants, grocery store and business plan reviews where food will be sold to the public.
Preparing food for sale
I would like to prepare and sell fresh foods, such as salads. Some items I would purchase at the farmer’s market, other ingredients I would buy elsewhere. Can I do that?
Yes, a permit to prepare and sell food at the market is required. The following permits may be applicable:
All produce must be washed in a sink specifically designated for food preparation. The Fee Schedule and Definitions (PDF) document will help you determine what type of permit you need.
Can I use my home kitchen to prepare food l sell at a holiday bazaar or school fundraiser?
All kitchens where food is prepared for service to the public must meet code requirements identified in the Washington State Retail Food Code Working Document 246-215 (PDF). Most residential kitchens do not meet these requirements.
You may use food establishment kitchens that have permits from Clark County Public Health to prepare products and store equipment. In addition to obtaining a permit, you must provide Clark County Public Health with a completed Annual Commissary Agreement and the Plan Review (PDF) prior to using the kitchen to prepare foods.
Where can I find a public kitchen in order to prepare food items I want to sell?
There are several kitchens where you can prepare food to sell to the public. These are also called commissary kitchens. Clark County Public Health permits to several churches and granges allowing them to operate as a commissary or public kitchen. Some restaurants are available as public kitchens.
Once you have located a permitted kitchen to prepare the food you want to sell, complete an Annual Commissary Agreement (PDF).
How does Washington’s “Cottage Food Operations Law” affect me in making foods from home that I sell to the public?
More information about the Cottage Food Operations can be found here.
What about packaged dairy products such as cheese and yogurt? What do I need to do?
A permit from Clark County Public Health is required when offering any food to the public that are not on the Exempt from Permit list (PDF). A license from Washington Department of Agriculture may also be needed. Refer to the Fee Schedule and Definitions document to determine what kind of permit will be needed.
I raise honey and eggs on my property. Can I sell these items at a farmer’s market?
Yes, you can sell honey and eggs at a farmer’s market. These items are regulated by the Washington State Department of Agriculture and may require a license. A permit from Clark County Public Health is not needed, however Public Health Food Safety Specialists will inspect eggs sold at farmer’s markets. Eggs must be cold-stored. More information can be found at the Washington State Department of Agriculture.
At your booth or cart
Is it OK to offer food samples at my booth?
Yes, you can offer customers samples of food. You will need to complete an application to Clark County Public Health. Depending on the type of foods, you may need the following:
Please refer to the Food Vendor Information guide (PDF) for safety tips on offering food samples.
Can I use Sterno ™ to keep hot foods in an outdoor setting?
No, chafing dishes and liquid fuel are not permitted for hot holding. Instead, use a steam table, barbeque, or grill.
What type of thermometer is required?
Thin, metal-stem, digital thermometers are required for most food establishments. Dial-style stem thermometers cannot accurately monitor thin foods, such as sliced deli meats, chopped meats and tofu, shrimp, sliced cheeses, hamburger patties, fish fillets, etc.
Refer to the Food Vendor Information guide (PDF) for more information.
I make products such as skin creams, lotions and shampoos. Can I sell them at farmer’s markets?
Each market has rules for what types of vendors they accept. Clark County Public Health does not have requirements for vendors selling non-food items.