Selling Food: How to Get Started
I want to sell food at an one or two events or at a community festival. 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. The first step is to determine if the food you are selling is exempt from permitting or if you will need a permit with Clack County Public Health. If your food items are exempt, submit the Exempt from Permit form. If you will be serving food that requires a permit and you will only be selling food a few times a year, fill out the Temporary Permit Form.
For more information, view the following documents:
I want to sell food at a farmers market or other events throughout the summer. What will it cost and how do I get started?
If you plan to sell food at multiple markets or events this year, you could purchase a temporary permit for each event or apply for a Multiple Event (annual itinerant) permit. The Multiple Event permit allows you to offer the public food 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 at the same time – for example, a farmers market and festival at the same time – each operation will need a separate permit.
The first step to get a Multiple Event permit is to have a Food Plan Review. This is a one-time requirement and fee.
After the plan has been approved, you can purchase your Multiple Event permit. Costs vary based on the complexity of the food you will be preparing.
Last, everyone involved with food preparation and service will need a Washington Food Worker Card.
For information on fees, see the current fee schedule for information on plan review costs and definitions of operation levels.
Selling Food: Permits and Licenses
How can I get licensed to operate a food cart?
The process for licensure and permitting food carts and mobile units starts with researching local building and land use rules. These rules will vary based on the location you are wanting to set up. This should occur before applying for a food permit. City/county approval, Labor and Industry approval (if the unit is fully enclosed), and a health permit are all required before starting your mobile food vending service. When you are ready to apply for a Mobile Food Vendor Plan Review, submit the Mobile Packet to Clark County Public Health.
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. 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 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, 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 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 for a complete description of this exception. Refer to the Fee Schedule and Definitions 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 health permit to sell uncut 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. Once it has been processed, it will go through a plan review. The time required to get a plan approved depends on the completeness of the application and complexity of the plan.
Selling Food: Preparing Food for Sale
I would like to prepare and sell fresh foods, such as salads. I would like to purchase my produce at the farmer’s market. Can I do that?
Yes, all food items must be from an approved source. Farmers market vendors meet this criteria.
If you yourself are a farmers market vendor, keep in mind that all produce must be washed in a sanitized sink specifically designated for food preparation. The sink must be indirectly drained and have running water. If you have access to a food preparation sink, then you may purchase from a farmers market vendor to sell at your booth.
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. Residential kitchens do not meet these requirements.
You may prepare food for the public and store equipment in a Clark County Public Health approved food establishment kitchen. You must purchase a Clark County Public Health permit prior to using the kitchen to prepare foods. The type of permit will depend on what food service items you will be selling and how many events you plan on participating in. See fees and definitions for information on what type of permit you would need.
Where can I find a public kitchen in order to prepare food items I want to sell?
Food may be prepared in any permitted kitchen that meets the requirements of your food permit level. These are also called commissary kitchens. There are several kitchens that may be used as commissary kitchens in Clark County. Several churches and granges are permitted, allowing them to operate as a commissary. There are several public kitchens that rent out their space for use. Some restaurants are also available as public kitchens.
Once you have located a permitted kitchen to prepare the food you want to sell, complete and submit an Annual Commissary Agreement. If you have questions about whether or not a kitchen meets the requirements, contact the health department at 360-397-8428.
How does Washington’s “Cottage Food Operations Law” affect me in making foods from home that I sell to the public?
Frequently asked questions concerning 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. 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.
Selling Food: At Your Booth or Cart
Is it OK to offer food samples at my booth?
Yes, you can offer customers samples of food. Whether or not you will need a permit to sample depends on what type of food you will be sampling. The type of permit required depends on the type of food and processes that are required to have your food ready to sample.
Regardless of whether or not a permit is required and what type of permit is required, there are important food safety practices that must be followed. Remember to keep all potentially hazardous foods under temperature control. Bare hand contact with food that is ready to eat is not allowed. Also, keep in mind that you will need to protect the public from each other. Single service containers, toothpicks, or handing the samples directly to individuals are examples of ways to protect your customers.
Please refer to the Food Vendor Information guide for additional safety tips on offering food samples.
Can I use Sterno ™ to keep hot foods in an outdoor setting?
No, chafing dishes and liquid fuel (such as Sterno ™) are not permitted for hot holding at outdoor events. Instead, use a steam table, barbeque, or grill. Always have an accurate thermometer with you to monitor the hot holding temperatures and stir often.
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 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.