Special Events/Temporary Food

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Is there an annual permit to cover a full season for temporary foods?

No. However, there is an annual sampling permit available for vendors who wish to sample, which applies only to sanctioned Farmer's Markets, Craft Fairs, etc. An Annual Sampling Permit and fee has been established for temporary food establishments engaged in the practice of providing food samples only to the public. The permit is valid only for the calendar year in which it was purchased. Temporary food establishments that apply for the Annual Sampling Permit may operate an unlimited number of times during the calendar year provided the permit has not been suspended or revoked. Temporary food establishments that apply for the Annual Sampling Permit must submit a proposed schedule outlining the events and locations at which they will be operating.



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If I turn in a food permit application and pay the fee, have I been approved?

No. The application is subject to review and food service operations must comply with regulations. Incomplete applications may be rejected. Applications may also be rejected based on inability to contact the person in charge of food service, menu item restrictions, or operational concerns. Please call 775-328-2434 to follow up regarding the status of your application.



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I am going to buy bulk muffins and bagels at my local grocery store and sell them individually at an event. Do I need a temporary food permit?

Yes. If food items that are not individually prepackaged and on-site preparation (opening of package and contact with food item) is required, a temporary food establishment permit must be obtained.



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Can I prepare food for a Special Event at home?

Only registered cottage food operators can prepare food at home for a special event.  All cottage food requirements must be followed and additional temporary food permitting may apply.  Other than the above exception, no storage, slicing, dicing, marinating, cooking or any process related to food preparation for any food item, dressing, garnish or other is allowed at a private residence for items served to the general public at a Special Event.



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What is a cumulative maximum fee for special events/temporary food establishments?

A temporary food establishment which operates at the same special event, in the same location and serves the same menu for at least three times during a calendar year will be eligible for a cumulative maximum fee for the special event. Therefore, the temporary food establishment will be charged the permit fee for the event multiplied by three. Late fees are equal to the total permit fee up to $100.00. Some examples of temporary food establishments that may qualify for this fee are those who sell food at farmer’s markets, recurring concerts, soccer, baseball, softball and other league games. The operation of the temporary food establishment is limited to 14 days per calendar year. If the 14 day limit is exceeded, the operator must submit application for a permit to operate a permanent food establishment and will be subject to all applicable regulations. Note: The cumulative maximum fee does not apply to sample vendors as sample vendors pay a set fee for the entire year and can operate an unlimited number of times during that year with a minimum of five dates required.



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Do I still need a permit if I am giving away food?
Food prepared in a private home and given away free of charge does not require a permit.  The food cannot be given to a food establishment.


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What food and beverage items are exempt from permit requirements?
The following is a list of temporary food establishment permit exemptions (per regulation):
  • Bottled water, canned soft drinks.
  • Coffee/Tea with powdered non-dairy creamer or ultra-pasteurized creamer packaged in individual servings. (This exemption does not include beverages such as lattés and espressos that are mixed with dairy product by the vendor during preparation).
  • Commercially prepared acidic beverages (orange juice, lemonade, etc.) that are served from the original, properly labeled container without the addition of consumer ice or other regulated food product.
  • Draft beer and other alcoholic beverages (wine) that are served without the addition of consumer ice or the addition of other regulated food product.
  • Hermetically sealed and unopened containers of non-potentially hazardous beverages, which do not require refrigeration (sport drinks, energy drinks, etc.).
  • Hot chocolate prepared without the use of potentially hazardous dairy products.
  • Non-potentially hazardous prepackaged baked goods with proper labeling from an approved source and requiring no on-site preparation (opening of package and contact with food item).
  • Non-potentially hazardous and unopened prepackaged foods from an approved source with proper labeling such as honey, jerked meats, potato chips, popcorn and other similar foods.
  • Produce sold from a produce stand where no sampling or food preparation is done.
  • Commercially prepared, prepackaged, and unopened ice cream that is appropriately labeled as to ingredients and manufacturer. Smoothie products (Jamba Juice and Keva Juice) made and prepackaged at the fixed permitted facility and appropriately labeled with ingredients and manufacturer.
  • Shelled and unshelled nuts, including flavored nuts for sample or sale.
  • Food Supplements that are offered for sample or sale without the addition of regulated food items. These include, but are not limited to vitamins, minerals, protein powder mixes, energy drinks, and herbal mixtures.
  • Foods from an approved source prepared for a “cook-off” or judging contest limited to one (1) gallon maximum of food product per contestant per day.


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Can I sell food made from a private home at my school or church fundraiser?

Yes. A religious, charitable or other nonprofit organization may, without possessing a permit from the Washoe County Health District (WCHD), sell food to raise money, whether or not the food was prepared at a private home, if the sale occurs on the premises of the organization.



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Can I sell food made from a private home at a Washoe County Health District (WCHD) temporary food permitted event?

No. Food that is prepared or stored in a private home must not be sold, or offered or displayed for sale, for compensations or contractual consideration of any kind, unless the person preparing the food possesses a valid permit issued by the WCHD for that purpose. See Cottage Food requirements for additional detail.



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Is there a food permit fee exemption for veterans as in California?

No. County Finance has not passed any such exemptions for purchase of permits.



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I am a grocery store and I would like to barbeque food outside and sell/serve the food inside. Do I need a temporary food permit?

No. In accordance with the Washoe County Health District (WCHD) Barbeque Policy, a fixed facility with a valid WCHD permit does not require a temporary food permit to barbeque food outside provided that food preparation, and service is conducted inside the facility. If food preparation and service is conducted outside the facility, a temporary food establishment permit is required.



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I am a grocery store and I would like to sample food inside my store. Do I need a temporary food permit?

No. If a fixed facility (grocery store, restaurant, etc.) already has a permit through the Washoe County Health District (WCHD) Food Protection Program, and the food will be sampled inside the store, a temporary food permit is not required. If the establishment wishes to sample or sell food outside, a temporary food permit is required.



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How far ahead of time must I purchase a Temporary Food Permit?

There is a late fee that applies if the permit is not purchased at least seven (7) calendar days ahead of time. The Health District discourages late applications and may deny applicants that are chronically late.



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I am an existing food establishment that would like to participate in a special event what do I do?

Existing food establishment permits do not extend outside of an approved facility. Therefore, existing food establishments must obtain an Application for a Temporary Food Permit from the Washoe County Health District when operating outside of the approved facility. Temporary food establishments must operate in accordance with the Regulations of the Washoe County District Board of Health Governing Food Establishments, Section 210.



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I am going to sell food at recurring events such as farmer’s markets, soccer games and concerts. Is there a limit to the amount of days I may operate?
Yes. A temporary food establishment which operates at the same special event, at the same location and serves the same menu is limited to 14 days per calendar year.
An Annual Sampling Permit and fee has been established for temporary food establishments engaged in the practice of providing food samples only to the public. The permit is valid only for the calendar year in which it was purchased. Temporary food establishments that apply for the Annual Sampling Permit may operate an unlimited number of times during the calendar year provided the permit has not been suspended or revoked. Temporary food establishments that apply for the Annual Sampling Permit must submit a proposed schedule outlining the events and locations at which they will be operating.


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I have a mobile food unit and would like to participate in a special event. Do I need a temporary food establishment permit?
If a mobile food unit has a valid Mobile Food Permit issued from the Washoe County Health District (WCHD) Food Protection Program, a temporary food permit is not required if the unit is fully self-contained as permitted and other food preparation or storage equipment is not required; however the mobile food unit must have the permission of the event promoter to participate in the event. If the mobile food unit does not have a valid WCHD Mobile Food Permit, a temporary food establishment permit is required.
NOTE concerning multiple-day special events: A mobile food unit must return to the designated servicing area DAILY as a condition required under the valid mobile permit. A temporary food establishment permit is required if the mobile unit remains in the same location for the duration of a multi-day event.


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Do I need a temporary food permit to sell popcorn, snow cones, or cotton candy at an event?

Yes. If popcorn, snow cones or cotton candy are not prepackaged (i.e., served with a handled scoop from a machine), then a temporary food permit is required.



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I am going to have a wine tasting event where food is donated and sampled by patrons; do I need a temporary food permit?

Yes. If tickets to the wine tasting event are open to the public and food will be served, a temporary food establishment permit must be obtained for each separate food vendor.



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Do I need a temporary food permit to sell food at a church or school fundraiser?

No. As long as the sale occurs on the premises of the organization and the profits of the sale are used to raise money, a temporary food permit is not required.



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Can I prepare the food for a Special Event ahead of time at an approved facility?

Advanced preparation must be approved by the Health District ahead of time as per application. Menu items, storage, transport, time and temperature will all be considered before such approval is granted. Cooking and cooling food items prior to an event is usually not allowed.



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I am a promoter and I would like to organize and put on a special event, what do I need to do?

The promoter must first contact the city or county business licensing department (Washoe County, City of Reno or City of Sparks) in which the event is going to be held to ensure the necessary permits/licenses are obtained in order to operate within the city/county limits. If the event’s daily attendance is equal to or exceeds 5,000 persons per day, or the total attendance over a fourteen (14) day period is equal to or exceeds 10,000 persons, the promoter must obtain an Application for a Special Event Permit from the Washoe County Health District.



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Is there a reduced food permit fee for non-profits?

No. Non-profit fees were removed from the current fee schedule as of July 1, 2016.



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If I already have a permit for my restaurant or mobile food do I need a temporary food permit?

Yes. A permit is not transferable from person to person or place to place and unless the operation is conducted from the mobile and contained within the mobile with a menu approval, a separated temporary food permit is required. Permitting for a mobile food operation may be avoided if operating under all requirements of a current annual mobile permit including returning to the designated servicing area daily.



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I am going to contract with an existing snack bar at a ball park/field to sell food for my league games. Do I need a temporary food permit?

No. A temporary food permit is only necessary when the temporary food establishment will be setup outdoors (i.e., no plumbed sinks, no electricity, etc.). Please note that prior to obtaining a temporary food permit, the applicant should contact representatives of the specific parks in which they wish to operate as many City of Reno and City of Sparks parks do not allow food vending of any kind. If a temporary food establishment wishes to sell food from an existing fixed, Washoe County Health District (WCHD) permitted facility, a temporary food permit is not required; however the temporary food establishment must contact representatives of the WCHD Food Protection Program (328-2434) and inform them of their intentions.



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What is a low risk food?

Examples of low risk food items include, samples given of any food item (including potentially hazardous foods), any beverage served in an open container with consumer ice, coffee drinks blended with dairy products (espresso, lattés), popcorn, pretzels, cotton candy, snow cones/shaved ice, funnel cakes, French fries, fried/cooked vegetables, roasted corn, churros, breads, pastries, nuts, sliced fruit (including melons), candy, fudge/chocolate.



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What is a potentially hazardous food?

Potentially hazardous food includes any animal food (a food of animal origin) that is raw or heat-treated; a food of plant origin that is heat-treated or consists of raw seed sprouts; cut melons; and garlic-in-oil mixtures that are not modified in a way that prevents bacterial growth. Some examples of potentially hazardous food include, meat, poultry, fish, shell fish and crustaceans, milk and dairy products, cooked rice, and cooked beans, baked potatoes, tofu and soy protein foods, eggs (except those treated to eliminate Salmonella), raw sprouts, and sliced melons.



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What is a special event?

A special event is a transitory gathering such as, but not limited to, an activity (including soccer, baseball and softball league games), a celebration, festival or fundraiser which is open to the public not to exceed 14 consecutive days in duration or 14 days per calendar year.



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What is a temporary food establishment?

A temporary food establishment is any food establishment which operates at a fixed location for a temporary period of time, not to exceed 14 consecutive days, in connection with a fair, carnival, circus, public exhibition, celebration or similar transitory gathering.