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County Home => Health => Environmental Health Services => Food Services => Special Events and Temporary Food Establishments

Special Events and Temporary Food Establishments

The Special Events Program covers all aspects of Environmental Health at mass gatherings, including temporary foods, solid waste and liquid waste.

Washoe County is home to several large events annually that exceed 200,000 attendees, such as Hot August Nights, Best-In-The-West Rib Cook-off, and the Reno Air Races. There are between 2,000 and 2,500 temporary food permits issued during the calendar year, with an estimated 1,000,000 patrons served. The Special Events Team conducts approximately 2,500 inspections to ensure safe food handling practice and compliance with regulations in Temporary Food Establishments.

The Special Events Program also works closely with event promoters throughout the event planning process to ensure that food vendor operations are accommodated and that all garbage and wastewater is disposed of in a sanitary manner.

Special Events and Temporary Food Establishments Frequently Asked Questions

Health Requirements for Special Event Temporary Food Establishments

  1. PERMIT

    A health permit shall be obtained from the Washoe County Health District a minimum of seven (7) days in advance. Applications and fees not received seven days prior to the event will result in a late fee that is equal to the permit fee up to $100.00. Food vendors will not be allowed to operate without a valid Washoe County Health District Temporary Food Permit. We do not accept out-of-state personal checks.
  2. FOOD SOURCE

    All foods shall be from an approved source. All food vendors shall be prepared to provide documentation of food source upon request. Interstate transport of foods that have been heated, reheated, or processed in any way outside of an approved USDA or FDA manufacturing facility is strictly prohibited. All processed or precooked foods from approved USDA or FDA facilities transported across state lines shall arrive at the event or an approved permitted facility in Nevada in their original state and original and verifiable packaging as purchased. Specific menu items are not allowed at Special Events regardless of source due to the hazard presented with such items. All menu items must be approved by the Washoe County Health District.
  3. FOOD STORAGE, HANDLING, AND PREPARATION

    All food storage, handling, preparation, and re-thermalization shall be done on-site or in an approved permitted facility. Food storage, handling, preparation, thermalization, and/or re-thermalization in a home kitchen or residence are strictly prohibited. A metal stem thermometer, 0°F to 220°F, is required to monitor food temperatures. Cooking, cooling, and re-heating of potentially hazardous foods are not allowed.

    Cold Storage: All potentially hazardous foods shall be held at 45°F or below prior to thermalization or re-heating, following cool down or as a cold service ingredient or menu item.

    Required Cooking Temperatures: Beef: 140°F, Minimum; Pork: 150°F, Minimum; Hotdogs: 165°F, Minimum; Hamburger: 155°F, Minimum; Chicken: 165°F, Minimum; All Other Foods: 140°F, Minimum

    Hot Holding: All potentially hazardous foods shall be held at 140°F or above following thermalization or re-heating until served. No chafing dishes are allowed at outdoor events. Gas or electric holding units are required (e.g. steam table, stove, oven, etc.). All hot holding units shall be emptied of food product at the closing of each day of an event. Food emptied from hot holding units shall not be re-served.

  4. CONDIMENTS

    Condiments shall be dispensed from a pump or served in single-service packets.
  5. SAMPLES

    Booths that offer samples shall serve individual portions. Common bowls are strictly prohibited.
  6. HAND WASHING

    Booths without hot and cold running water shall provide a minimum 2 gallon container of water with a spigot to provide gravity flow, liquid soap, and paper towels for hand wash, along with a water-tight catch basin for greywater generated at the hand wash station.
  7. FOOD HANDLER HYGIENIC PRACTICE

    Drinking and smoking is strictly prohibited in any food preparation or foodservice area. Any person with open cuts, sores, or wounds is strictly prohibited from food preparation and/or service. If a person is cut during food preparation or service the person shall STOP work immediately and tend to the wound. The operator shall ensure appropriate cleanup and sanitation of all affected areas and equipment and discard any contaminated or potentially contaminated food or consumer use items.
  8. STORAGE

    Food, utensils, and single service articles shall be transported and stored a minimum of 6 inches above the ground or floor surface. Food, utensils, and single service articles shall be transported, handled, and stored in such a manner as to prevent contamination from non-food items and/or cross-contamination of cooked and/or processed foods with raw foods. Handled scoops for service ice, popcorn, and other bulk items are required.
  9. UTENSIL AND EQUIPMENT WASHING

    All utensils, cookware, and equipment shall be washed, rinsed, and sanitized daily and as needed in a three-compartment sink with hot and cold running water. Three tub non-plumbed and drained systems are strictly prohibited. An adequate supply of clean utensils must be provided each day of operation. In lieu of a three-compartment sink during operating hours, cutting boards may be sanitized with a spray solution of 100 to 200 ppm of chlorine or other approved sanitizer. The food concessionaire shall have chemical test strips available to test sanitizer solution concentrations. Sanitize in-place equipment shall be sanitized as needed by methods approved by the Washoe County Health District.
  10. CONSTRUCTION

    Every foodservice operation shall have an overhead structure to protect the food (e.g. canopy). Heating and/or cooking equipment shall be barricaded or placed in an area inaccessible to the public.
  11. WASTEWATER

    All wastewater generated shall drain to a sanitary sewer or be held in a spill-proof, watertight container and disposed of in a sanitary sewer or by other method approved by the Washoe County Health District.
  12. SOLID WASTE

    All solid waste and garbage must be stored in leakproof containers with tight fitting lids.

This is only a partial list of the requirements for Temporary Food Establishments and shall not be construed to be exclusive. To specifically determine individual booth needs, please contact the Washoe County Health District at (775) 328-2434 or (775) 328-2620.

Special Events and Temporary Food Establishments Frequently Asked Questions

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.
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.
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.
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. For example, a temporary food establishment that operates a one day recurrent event would be charged $38.00 multiplied by three for a total of $114.00, and a two day recurrent event (i.e., Saturday and Sunday) would be charged $71.00 multiplied by three for a total of $213.00. If a temporary food establishment operates a combination of two and three day recurrent events, the establishment will be charged for a three day 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.
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.
An Annual Sampling Permit and fee has been established for certified farmers at sanctioned farmer’s markets (Farmer’s Markets are sanctioned by the Nevada Farmer’s Market Association) who wish to sample produce only. The permit is valid only for the calendar year in which it was purchased. Certified farmers 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. Certified farmers must submit a proposed schedule outlining the events and locations at which they will be operating.
Yes. Coffee (not latte/espresso), tea, prepackaged and unopened non-perishable snacks and candy, canned and bottled soft-drinks and water in original container, canned and bottled pasteurized juices in original container, and whole produce are all exempt from permit.
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.
A permit is required if the food has been prepared in a commercial establishment. Food that is prepared in a private home and given away free of charge or consideration of any kind is exempt from the permitting requirement, unless it is given to a commercial food establishment. If you are not sure, it is best to contact the District Health Department at 328-2434.
Temporary food establishments must obtain an Application for a Temporary Food Permit from the Washoe County Health District. Temporary food establishments must operate in accordance with the Regulations of the Washoe County District Board of Health Governing Food Establishments, Section 170.
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.
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.
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. The Washoe County Health District (WCHD) has established a conditional maximum temporary food establishment fee for individual sample and tasting events promoted by non-profit organizations. The maximum fee ($200) will be charged for twenty (20) or fewer vendors for each qualifying event and applies to samples only. Each permit application for temporary food establishments in excess of the twenty (20) allowed under the maximum fee shall be assessed the non-profit temporary food establishment permit fee ($25) as set by the WCHD. In order to qualify for this fee, the event promoter must provide proof of non-profit status.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Due to increased risk factors encountered at temporary food locations, the following foods are strictly prohibited from being sold or given away at any special event or temporary food establishment:
  • Tamales (unless prepackaged from an approved source)
  • Papusas (unless prepackaged from an approved source)
  • Sushi, sashimi, seared ahi or any other raw or partially raw fish or meat product.
  • Other food item deemed unsafe for public consumption may be prohibited at the discretion of the Washoe County Health Authority.
The following is a list of temporary food establishment permit exemptions:
  • 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.
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.
Never. 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.
Potentially hazardous food includes an 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.
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.
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.
No. County Finance has not passed any such exemptions for purchase of permits.
Yes, with proof of non-profit status for a temporary food establishment that donates all proceeds to the non-profit agency. (See current Fee Schedule for Environmental Health Services, Temporary Foods/Special Events, Non-profit.)
No. There is an annual permit for certified produce vendors who wish to sample that applies only to sanctioned Farmer`s Markets. The Washoe County Health District permits and inspects every event separately.
Absolutely; 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.
There is a late fee that applies if the permit is not purchased at least seven (7) calendar days ahead of time. The District Health Department discourages late applications and may deny applicants that are chronically late.
Advanced preparation must be approved by the Health Department 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.