Temporary food permits and markets

When a special event is held that requires the short term provision of food, the facilities may often be unable to meet the requirements of the Food Premises Regulation. Temporary food service permits are sometimes needed to set out a minimum standards to ensure safe food provision at special events where full compliance with the Food Premise Regulation is not achievable.

A temporary food service premise is a short-term (14 days or less per year) operation for the preparation and / or serving of food products. If the temporary facility operates for more than 14 days it is no longer temporary and it would need the same type of permit as those who hold a mobile facilities permit.

Exempt Foods

The following foods are exempt and do not require a permit. If you are only serving these foods, no application is required.

  • Cotton candy, hard candy
  • Donuts/bannock (no dairy, meat fillings or toppings)
  • Whole fresh fruit or vegetables
  • Coffee (black with individual creamers)
  • Lemonade, ice tea, shaved ice, hot chocolate (commercial mixes)
  • Muffins, baked goods (commercial source, no dairy filling)
  • Pancakes, waffles (no whipped cream topping)
  • Popcorn
  • Popsicles, novelty ice creams
  • Pre-packaged shelf stable foods (commercial source, sold in package)


What are temporary markets? (Farmer's markets, etc.)

A temporary market is not necessarily a permitted facility, but rather it is where various vendors, permitted temporary food service establishments, non-permitted non-hazardous food vendors, and miscellaneous crafters, etc. may gather sell their wares on a periodic basis.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Pick up a temporary food market guidelines and application form?

The guidelines are available at your local health unit, from your Temporary Food Market organizer, or at the BC Association of Farmers Market website. Application to participate in your local market is completed through the Market Manager for each market location.


What if I want to sell a food that is on the high-risk list?

You should speak with your market manager and the local EHO and fill out an application for a Food Premises Permit - fees may apply depending on how often you plan to attend the market. This will allow you to prepare your food in a permitted kitchen and sell it to the public.


Why should high risk foods be prepared in a permitted kitchen?

High risk foods need some special care and consideration. Depending on the type of food product, proper heating, cooling and refrigeration protocols must be followed. Home kitchens may lack the necessary equipment and space for these procedures.


Why do some foods get tested for pH and Aw?

Foods with a low (acidic) pH and a limited amount of moisture (Water Activity or ‘Aw’) will prevent the growth and development of food-borne pathogens (like botulism or salmonella). In order to make sure the food you are selling has a low enough pH and/or Aw, the Market Manager or the local EHO may request you have this food tested.


What kinds of foods require pH and Aw testing?

Canned products are among the most commonly tested for pH, particularly if less acidic foods. This is important because the botulism grows well in canned products with no oxygen. The pH of the food should be 4.6 or lower to prevent this deadly botulism toxin from accumulating.


Baked goods are almost never tested because of their ingredients

(Pickles are a good example of food that should be tested for pH levels. In one recent case, pickles with a pH level of more than 4.6 were discovered at a local market; because the testing process was followed, they were removed from the market before any potential exposure to botulism could occur.)


How often does foodborne illness really occur?

Most cases of foodborne illness go unreported because the ill person usually does not see a doctor, report it to the EHO, or submit a stool specimen.

For every one case that is reported, it is predicted that anywhere from ten to one hundred cases go unreported. Health Canada also estimates that every year 11 to 13 million Canadians become ill with foodborne illness.

An outbreak in 2007 in Prince George is a prime example of how under-reported food borne illnesses are – EHOs followed up with about 70 people who had fallen ill, but only five of them saw a doctor about it.


Has anyone ever become ill from foods sold at a temporary food market?

Yes. We are aware of a few major outbreaks from foods distributed at Temporary Food Markets, including a case where 13 people became ill with E. coli after consuming unpasteurized Gouda cheese from an Edmonton Temporary Food Market in 2003. 

In 1994, 82 cases of Salmonella were traced back to unpasteurized soft cheese from a Temporary Food Market in Ontario. And in 2000, eight became ill with E. coli after eating fruit samples handed out at a Temporary Food Market in Colorado.


What makes a potluck dinner so different from a public event?

These private events are restricted to a family, or members of an organization or club and their invited guests. Some of the main differences are that generally:

  • These events are smaller functions
  • People know each other
  • They are short in duration
  • People assume the food is home-made and not subject to the requirements of permitted food establishments

Are these temporary food market guidelines only being implemented in Northern BC?

No. These guidelines were developed by BCCDC and the Health Authorities in cooperation with the BC Association of Temporary Food Markets. The guidelines have been implemented across the province and are followed by all Temporary Food Markets that belong to the BC Association of Farmers Markets.


What help can an EHO offer to a temporary food market vendor?

A certain amount of paperwork is necessary to complete the application process and your market manager will assist you with the application.

The local EHO will be available to the Market Managers should they have any questions about the relative risk of your product the proposed recipes and processes, labeling, and, when necessary, assist in delivering samples to an accredited lab.

The lab will notify you of the sample test results and whether they meet the necessary standards. If you have any questions or concerns, the EHO is here to work with you to determine the safest way to prepare your foods.


Can I give out free samples to the public at the temporary food market?

Yes, but make sure to discuss this with the Market manager first to ensure it is done safely and meets the Market's standards.


Roadside whole fish sales

Is your fresh salmon safe?

Every year, BC residents have fled to the dockside and roadside vendors to purchase fresh fish directly from the fisher. While fresh salmon is a good source of nutrition, it can also carry harmful bacteria that may cause food poisoning. As fresh fish is sold “in the round”, meaning the whole fish without the head or guts removed, it is important you know the extra safety tips for buying and handling fish from dockside and roadside stands. 

We are most familiar with cleaned and gutted fish from the supermarkets. Fish "in the round", tend to spoil more quickly and represent an increased risk of food poisoning. It is important to keep the fish cold during transportation and storage and to remove the guts as soon as possible. Follow these safety tips when buying, transporting, handling and preparing fresh fish “in the round”


Roadside stands

Look at the set up of the roadside stand when purchasing fresh fish.

  • The fish should be stored in either:
    • a plastic tote with the fish covered in ice and protected with a lid, or
    • a mechanically refrigerated cooler.
  • There should be no animals at the stand.
  • Vendors must have a DFO Fish Harvesting License and either a valid provincial Fish Buying License or a Fish Vending License. Copies of these should be on site.
  • The vendor should provide a receipt for your purchase upon request.



Buying fish

Look for visual clues that indicate possible spoilage or mishandling of fish. Fresh fish

  • Have scales
  • Have bright eye colour (not cloudy)
  • Do not smell of ammonia or smell “off"

Purchase whole fish where the vendor can confirm that was caught within the past 24hrs. Vendors are not permitted to gut the fish at a roadside stand.



The vendor should place your fish into a clear food grade plastic bag. The vendor should include a label on the bag that includes the:

  • Contact information of the vendor
  • Species of fish
  • Date of harvest

Fish must be kept cool and preferably kept on ice until you get home.


Cleaning whole fish

Fish must be cleaned as soon as possible, preferably upon arriving home.

  1. Using a sharp knife, insert the blade into the anus of the fish.
  2. Pull the blade through the belly of the fish and upwards to the gills
  3. Remove all the internal organs, using the dull part of the knife to scrape away guts from the spine.
  4. Rinse the inside and outside of the fish under clean water.
  5. Remove the head by cutting along the gill flaps on both sides of the fish.
  6. Fins and tail can be cut off if needed.
  7. Discard the fish guts into the garbage, or other in some other acceptable manner immediately. 

Storing and preparing fish

Fish should be kept refrigerated until ready to cook. Fish should be frozen if you do not plan to cook it within a day of purchase. 

Before cooking, wash the fish thoroughly. Cook fish to a minimum internal temperature of 70°C (158°F); cook stuffed fish to 74°C (165°F). Use a thermometer to check the internal temperature. 

Guide: cook 10 minutes for each inch thickness (fish should appear opaque and be firm to touch when cooked). Due to the extremely low freezing temperatures required for parasite destruction, it is not recommended that consumers attempt to use salmon purchased from roadside vendors for sushi preparation.


Community food events

Does my community food event need a temporary food permit?
I am selling lower risk foods at a Bake Sale (please refer to the following page for examples of low-risk foods). A permit is not required. Food safety information is available from your local Environmental Health Officer (EHO). I am selling higher risk foods at a bake sale. Your food products must be prepared in a permitted kitchen. If your kitchen does not already have a permit, contact your local EHO for a Temporary Food Service Permit or for more information. I am making and serving foods intended to be eaten on-site, at a Bake Sale, Farmer’s Market, Fair, Festival, BBQ or other event. A Temporary Food Service Permit is required. Contact your local EHO. I am selling foods at a Farmers Market. Home kitchen facilities and Market Manager approval are adequate only for low risk foods, High risk foods must be prepared in an approved facility and a Food Service Permit, testing or a letter of confirmation may be required, contact your local EHO. I am a volunteer preparing a meal for members of my own group/organization (e.g. kinsmen club, 4-H club, etc) or a private event (e.g. weddings). No permit is required. Contact your local EHO if you would like food safety information. I am part of a church congregation bringing snacks for after service A permit is not required. Contact your local EHO if you would like food safety information. I am running a business and prepare meals for groups, private events and public events. A Food Service Permit, specifically for catering, is required. Contact your local EHO. I am using a community kitchen to prepare a meal open to the public. If the kitchen facility does not already have a permit, contact your local EHO for a Temporary Food Service Permit. If the kitchen is permitted and you are a member of the community organization which operates the kitchen then you do not need a permit.  If you are not part of the organization and renting the kitchen, then you require a temporary food service permit. I am having potluck for members of my own group/organization. A permit is not required. Contact your local EHO if you would like food safety information. I am having potluck open to the public. Contact your local EHO to discuss all the details. Higher risk foods must be prepared in a permitted kitchen. I am selling/serving food, but my event does not fall in one of the above categories. Contact your local EHO to discuss your unique plans.

Lower vs higher risk foods

Lower vs higher risk foods
Lower risk foods Higher risk foods Lower risk foods are foods that pathogens have trouble surviving in because they are drier, have a high sugar or salt content, or are more acidic. Higher risk foods are foods that can support the growth of pathogens and/or foods that have been associated with causing foodborne illness. A Food Service permit is not required to sell these foods at a bake sale. If you would like some food safety information on the foods you are selling, you can contact your EHO. A Food Service permit is required to sell these foods at a bake sale.  If you would like to sell these foods, you should contact your EHO who can help you obtain a free temporary Food Service Permit. Examples: Cakes, cookies, squares, muffins, cupcakes, fruit pies, tarts, breads, candies, popcorns, chocolates, fudge, brownies. Examples: Cheesecake, pumpkin pies, frostings or fillings with cream cheese, custards, whipped cream or cheese.

Food safety for bake sales

Food safety for bake sales

Bake Sales are popular fundraisers that allow the public to enjoy homemade baked goods while supporting local organizations and groups. While the low risk foods sold at bake sales are rarely associated with causing foodborne illness, it is important to remember that under the right circumstances any food can cause foodborne illness.

Protecting your foods

Foods prepared for bake sales are called ‘Ready to Eat’ foods - that means they will be eaten as they are, and not cooked or processed further. If the food becomes contaminated, there is no further ‘kill step’ to destroy any pathogens on the food. It is important to protect your foods from contamination by:

  • Washing your hands often. If you have cuts or wounds on your hands, ensure they are completely covered with gloves or waterproof dressings.
  • Prepare your foods on clean surfaces. Make sure counters, cutting boards, cutting knives, etc. are washed and sanitized before use (e.g. mix 1 tsp bleach per litre of water to make a sanitizing solution).
  • Ensure your foods are prepared and stored separate from any raw meat products, chemical/cleaning products, or other sources of contamination.
  • Wrap your foods with clean food packaging after they have been prepared to protect them from contamination during storage, transport and sale.
  • Label your foods with the product name, your name and have ingredient lists available to refer to (useful for those with food allergies).
  • Avoid preparing and handling foods if you are experiencing, symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, or a respiratory infection, or if you have had such symptoms in the past 48 hours.

Farm meat slaughter

Meat inspection

Recent amendments to the Meat Inspection Regulation have brought in new types of Slaughter Licenses to permit small scale farmers to sell the meat from their farm to the public.

All animal meat slaughter for public sales (beef, poultry, swine, sheep, goats, etc.) must be from a licensed slaughter establishment. For more information on the full meat inspection program, visit the Ministry of Health Services, Meat Inspection Graduated Licensing.

Classes of slaughter licences available within Northern Health - Class D and Class E:

slaughter licence map

For more information, contact us at:

Prince George: 250-565-2150
Fort St. John: 250-263-6000
Smithers: 250-847-6400

Need more info?

Additional resources