Temporary food service includes any food service establishment that operates at a fixed location temporarily. This can include fairs, carnivals, circuses, public exhibitions, and other similar gatherings.

Learn the dos and don’ts of temporary food service, and fill out the temporary food service requirement checklist and application to license your temporary event.

Temporary Food Service Application – Online Application

Temporary Food Service Application – print and mail

Top 6 Causes of Food Poisoning

From past experience, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list these six circumstances as the ones most likely to lead to illnesses.

REMEMBER: When in doubt, throw it out!

Check through the list to make sure your event has covered these common causes of foodborne disease:

  • Inadequate Cooling and Cold Holding More than half of all food poisonings are due to keeping foods out at room temperature for more than 2-4 hours.
  • Preparing Food Too Far Ahead of Service Food prepared 12 or more hours before service increases the risk of temperature abuse.
  • Poor Personal Hygiene and Infected Personnel Poor hand-washing habits and food handlers working while ill are implicated in 1 out of every 4 food poisonings.
  • Inadequate Reheating When leftovers are not reheated to above 165° F, illness often results.
  • Inadequate Hot Holding Cooked foods not held at above 140° F until served can become highly contaminated.
  • Contaminated Raw Foods & Ingredients Serving raw shellfish or raw milk that is contaminated, or using contaminated raw eggs in sauces and dressings, has often led to outbreaks of foodborne disease. It is always safer to use pasteurized products.

Clean Hands For Clean Foods

Since the staff at temporary food service events may not be professional food workers, it is important that they be thoroughly instructed in the proper method of washing their hands. The following may serve as a guide:

  • Use soap and water.
  • Rub your hands vigorously as you wash them.
  • Wash ALL surrounding surfaces, including:
    • Back of hands
    • Wrists
    • Between fingers
    • Under fingernails using a good brush
  • Rinse your hands well.
  • Dry hands with a paper towel.
  • Turn off the water using a paper towel instead of your hands

Wash your hands in this fashion before you begin work and frequently during the day, especially after performing any of these activities:

  • Using the toilet.

  • Handling raw food.

  • Coughing or sneezing.

  • Touching hair, face, or body.

  • Smoking.

  • Handling soiled items.

  • Scraping tableware.

  • Disposing of garbage.

14 Steps to Safe and Sanitary Food Service Events

Church suppers, street fairs, civic celebrations, and other similar events call for food service outlets to be set up outdoors or in locations where keeping foods safe and sanitary becomes a real challenge. This 14-step guide will help you keep your temporary event free of the risk of food poisoning.

1. Permits. Check with your local government agency about permits and code requirements. Be prepared to tell the department where you will hold the event, what you plan to serve, where the food will come from, how you will prepare and transport it, and the precautions you will take the prevent contamination.

In the event of a foodborne illness, it will help if you can show you ran your event “by the book.”

2. Booth. Design your booth with food safety in mind. The ideal booth will have an overhead covering, be entirely enclosed except for the serving window, and have only one door or flap for entry. Clear plastic or light-colored screening on side walls will aid visibility. Only food workers may be permitted inside the food preparation area. Animals must be excluded.

The more your food is exposed to outsiders, the greater the likelihood of contamination.

3. Menu. Keep your menu simple, and keep potentially hazardous foods (meats, eggs, dairy, potato salad, cut fruits and vegetables, etc.) to a minimum. Avoid using precooked foods or leftovers. Cook to order, so as to avoid the potential bacterial contamination. Use only foods from approved sources, avoiding foods that have been prepared at home.

Complete control over your food, from source to service, is the key to safe, sanitary food service.

4. Cooking. Use a food thermometer to check on cooking and cold-holding temperatures of potentially hazardous foods. Hamburgers and other ground beef should be cooked to 155°F or until juices run clear, poultry parts to 165°, pork and other meats to 150°.

Most illnesses from temporary events can be traced back to lapses in temperature control.

5. Reheating. Heat foods to above 165°F within 30 minutes. Do not attempt to heat foods in crock pots, steam tables, or other hot-holding devices or over steam.

Slow-cooking mechanisms may activate bacteria and never reach killing temperatures.

6. Cooling and cold storage. Foods that require refrigeration must be cooled from 40°F as quickly as possible and held that temperature until ready to serve. To cool foods down quickly, use an ice water bath (60% ice to 40% water), stirring the product frequently, or place food in shallow pans no more than four inches deep and refrigerate. Pans should not be stored one atop the other and lids should be off or ajar until the food is completely cooled. Check the Temperature periodically to see if the food is cooling properly.

Allowing hazardous food to remain unrefrigerated for too long has been the cause of many episodes of food poisoning.

7. Transportation. If food needs to be transported from one location to another, keep it well covered and provide adequate temperature controls. Use refrigerated trucks or insulated containers to keep hot foods hot (above 140°F) and cold foods cold (below 40°F).

Neglecting transportation can undo all the good of your other measures to prevent contamination.

8. Hand washing. Provision must be made for an adequate hand-washing facility. In a pinch, a large urn full of water, a soap dispenser, a roll of paper towels, and a bucket to collect wastewater may do the trick.

The use of disposable gloves can provide an additional barrier to contamination, but gloves are no substitute for hand washing. Frequent and thorough hand washing remains the first line of defense in preventing foodborne disease.

9. Health and hygiene. Only healthy workers should prepare and serve food. Any who show symptoms of a disease — cramps, nausea, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, jaundice, etc. — or who have open sores or infected cuts on the hands should not be allowed in the food booth. Workers should wear clean outer garments and should not smoke in the booth.

Ill or unclean personnel are the frequent cause of foodborne diseases. Smoking, besides being unhealthful and aesthetically unappealing in food preparation, contributes to the contamination of workers’ hands.

10. Food handling. Avoid hand contact with raw, ready-to-serve foods and food contact surfaces. Use disposable gloves, tongs, napkins, or other tools to handle food.

Touching food with bare hands transfers germs to the food.

11. Dishwashing. Use disposable utensils for food service. Keep your hands away from food contact surfaces and never reuse disposable ware. Wash equipment and utensils in a 4-step sanitizing process: washing in hot, soapy water; rinsing in hot water; chemical sanitizing, and air drying.

Clean utensils provide protection against the transfer of harmful germs.

12. Ice. Ice used to cool cans and bottles should not be used in cup beverages and should be stored separately. Use a scoop to dispense ice, never the hands.

Ice can become contaminated with bacteria and viruses can cause foodborne illness.

13. Wiping cloths. Rinse and store your wiping cloths in a bucket of sanitizer (for example, one capful of bleach in two gallons of water). Change the solution every two hours.

Well-sanitized work surfaces prevent cross-contamination and discourage flies.

14. Insect control and wastes. Keep foods covered to protect them from insects. Store pesticides away from food. When you apply them, follow the label directions, avoiding contamination of food, equipment, or other food contact surfaces. Place garbage and paper waste in a refuse container with a tight-fitting lid. Dispose of wastewater in a sewer or public toilet.

Flies and other insects are carriers of foodborne diseases. The chemicals used to kill them can be toxic to humans.