Food handling rules for special events

Follow these food safety requirements for any temporary special events held for the public.

Food handling requirements

Approved sources

  • Food from temporary food facilities must come from an approved source. This can be a licensed wholesale or retail facility.
  • You may not use, store, serve, offer for sale, sell, or give away any food prepared or stored in a private home.
  • You must obtain raw oysters from certified oyster beds. You must maintain shipping tags on site for up to 90 days of harvest.
  • Mushroom species picked in the wild cannot be eaten by humans unless a health department-approved expert inspects them and confirms they are safe.

Potentially hazardous foods

Potentially hazardous foods are high protein foods that are capable of supporting rapid and progressive growth of infectious or disease causing micro-organisms. This includes food that has any:

  • milk or milk products
  • shell eggs
  • meats, poultry, fish, shellfish
  • edible crustacean (shrimp, lobster, crab)
  • baked or boiled potatoes
  • tofu and other soy-protein products
  • plant foods that have been heat treated
  • raw seed sprouts, or synthetic ingredients

Store potentially hazardous foods cold (at or below 41 degrees Fahrenheit) or hot (at or above 140 degrees Fahrenheit) to prevent the growth of disease-causing bacteria.

Provide a food thermometer for monitoring food temperatures.

Adequate equipment must be provided for maintaining safe food storage temperatures (like refrigerators, ice chest, steam tables, chafing dishes with sterno, and so on.)

Hazardous foods may be removed from the above specified safe food storage temperatures for the purpose of preparation for not more than 2 hours during any preparation step.

Sushi must be served within 2 hours of preparation.

Prevent cross-contamination of foods

  • Store raw meats separate from cooked foods or produce at all times.
  • Never store raw meats above cooked foods or produce.
  • Clean and sanitize cutting boards with a 200 ppm Chlorine bleach solution after cutting raw meats and before cutting cooked meats and produce.
  • Clean and sanitize all utensils after handling raw meats and before handling cooked meats and produce.
  • Keep raw meats separate from cooked meats during grilling.
  • Wash hands after handling raw meats.

Prevent droplet contamination of foods by providing sneeze guards.

  • Plastic wrap or clear dome serving dishes can also be used to prevent droplet contamination.
  • Where these methods are not practical, foods must be displayed at least 24 inches from the front table edge to create a distance barrier.
  • Provide tongs, disposable gloves, or single service tissues for handling self-service non-packaged foods.
  • Unpackaged foods may not be displayed or stored at the service counters.

Keep drink ice pure.

Never store drink containers like milk cartons and orange juice bottles in drinking ice.

  • Store drink ice at least 6 inches off the ground.
  • Never use ice previously used for food storage as drink ice.
  • Ice used for refrigeration purposes may not be used in food or beverages.

Store all foods at least 6 inches off the ground.

Provide a utensil washing sink or setup for multiple use serving utensils.

  • A 100 ppm chlorine residual is required in the final rinse solution.

Provide accessible hand wash facilities equipped with liquid soap and paper towels.

If a hand wash sink is not available, a gravity flow hand wash station may be substituted.

View guidelines on setting up a handwashing station.

The following activities should always be followed by thorough hand washing:

  • Using the restroom
  • Using a handkerchief or tissue
  • Handling raw food
  • Touching areas of the body, such as ears, nose, or hair, or scratching anywhere on the body.
  • Touching unclean equipment and work surfaces
  • Smoking or chewing tobacco
  • Eating or drinking beverages

Food workers also must:

  • Clean and bandage cuts or burns.
  • Wear plastic gloves to prevent contamination of foods.
  • Stay home, and not prep or serve food, if they are ill with an infectious disease.
  • Wear clean outer garments (like aprons) and tie back hair.
  • Wash their hands with soap and warm water prior to the start of food preparation activities, after using the toilet, after smoking, eating and whenever necessary to prevent contamination of food.
  • Not smoke or eat in food-related areas or food booths.
  • Not do anything that result in the contamination or adulteration of food, food contact surfaces, or utensils.

Temperature control methods

  • Cold foods must be held at 45 degrees Fahrenheit or below for up to 12 hours in a 24-hour period.
    • At the end of the operating day, place foods in refrigeration units that maintain the food at or below 41 degrees Fahrenheit or the food shall be destroyed in a manner approved the health department.
  • Hot foods must be held at 135 degrees Fahrenheit or above.
    • At the end of each operating day, destroy this food in a manner approved by health department or donate to a local food bank or other nonprofit charitable organization (as stated in Article 7 of the California Retail Food Code).


  • During transportation to and from the food facility or booth and during the operation of the facility, all food, contact surfaces, and utensils shall be protected from contamination.

Get help

Kyle Chan

Senior Environmental Health Inspector

Aron Wong

Senior Environmental Health Inspector

Program email

Last updated April 24, 2024