Special Events and Food Vendor Requirements

Requirements for Fairs, Festivals, Special Events and Markets:

All fairs, festivals, special events, markets and vendors who sell food products are inspected by a Public Health Inspector (PHI). The PHI will inspect each food vendor according to relevant legislations such as the Ontario Regulation 493: Food Premises and the Health Protection and Promotion Act. If there is an immediate health risk to the public, a food vendor will not be allowed to operate until the health risk is removed.

Food vendors can follow our food vendor set up guide and consult with a Public Health Inspector at 519-258-2146 ext. 4475 to help you understand food safety and COVID-19 requirements.

Application Forms

Under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, 1990, you must notify the health unit when food will be offered to the public at an event.

All organizers must complete a Special Event/Market Application form and submit it to the health unit at least 30 days before the event.

All food vendors must complete a Food Vendor Application form and submit it to the health unit at least 30 days before the event.

For organizers of private events (e.g. wedding receptions, private celebrations) seeking a “Special Event Permit” from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) and are required to notify the Health Unit, please complete the Private Event Notification Form.

If you are planning to attend more than one event, an application form is required for each event.

Once the health unit receives the applications, they will be reviewed by a Public Health Inspector who will contact the organizer and all food vendors to collect additional information.

What foods can you not sell?

  • Ungraded eggs (e.g., Farm-gate eggs).
  • Unpasteurized milk and dairy products.
  • Uninspected meats (meats not federally or provincially inspected).
  • Foods prepared in an uninspected facility (if the event is not exempt from the regulation).

Organizer Responsibilities

As an event organizer, you are responsible for:

  • Submitting the Special Event/Market Application, which includes submitting a site plan outlining the location of food booths, hand wash stations, garbage receptacles, dishwashing station, water supply, waste water disposal and sanitary facilities. In addition, a list of all food vendors will need to be submitted in the application.
  • Making sure food vendors send their application forms to the health unit at least 30 days before the event.
  • Choosing a site location where the land is dry and well drained.
  • Providing a safe water supply.
  • Making sure there are an adequate number of handwashing sinks provided for food vendors. 
  • Making sure hot and cold water is provided for handwashing sinks and/or dishwashing sinks.
  • Arranging for proper disposal of garbage and waste water at the designated site.
  • Making sure sanitary facilities are maintained in a sanitary condition and are provided with handwashing sinks stocked with liquid soap and paper towels.
  • Making sure there's proper hydro for operation of each food booth (if needed).

Food Vendor Responsibilities

As a food vendor, you are responsible for:

  • Filling out and submitting the Food Vendor Application form 30 days before the event.
  • Making sure there is at least one certified food handler or supervisor on the premises who has completed food handler training during every hour in which the booth is operating. A copy of the certificate that has been issued within the last five years must be provided on-site. To find out how you can be certified, visit our Food Handler Course webpage.
  • Educating yourself and staff on safe food handling practices.
  • Providing foods that have been prepared in an inspected facility.
  • Finding out what foods are allowed to be sold at the event.
  • Verifying that all equipment is working properly before preparing or bringing food to the booth.
  • Being aware that food deemed unsafe will be discarded during inspection.
  • Food booths meeting the requirements listed in the Food Vendors Set-Up Guide.

If you are preparing food off-site in a rented kitchen, you will be asked to provide proof of where the food was prepared such as the most recent inspection report from a Public Health Unit.

You must follow the requirements in order to operate. Failure to meet the requirements may lead to a delay or inability to offer food for sale to the public. If a health hazard is found to exist during the operation of a food booth, we may require your operation to close until the health hazard is corrected.

Is your event exempt?

There are special events or farmers’ markets that are exempt from the Food Premises Regulation (O.Reg.493/17).

Exemptions apply to:

  1. Food premises owned, operated, or leased by religious organizations, service clubs, and fraternal organizations, where these organizations:
    • Prepare and serve meals for special events.
    • Conduct bake sales.
  2. Farmers’ Markets that meet the definition of a farmers’ market (See ‘General Market vs Farmers’ Market’ for more information).

For Farmers’ Markets, a PHI will conduct an on-site assessment of the market to determine whether or not the Ontario Food Premises Regulation 493 applies to the market. Please be advised, the type of market will be determined by the PHI during a routine assessment of all vendors in the market, including the non-food vendors.

If you believe your event is exempt, contact the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit for confirmation.

If your event is exempt, you will be required to:

  • Submit information about donated food that is potentially hazardous (e.g. donated wild game meat products). This information must include:
    • Names of donors,
    • Specific details on what they donated,
    • Contact information for the donors.
  • Post a public notification sign, showing that your booth was not inspected.

General Market vs Farmer’s Market

General Market

A general market is similar to a farmers’ market except that the majority of the food vendors do not sell their own farm products. A general market is when 50% or less of the vendors are selling their own farm products. The Ontario Regulation 493: Food Premises applies to these markets as well as the Health Protection and Promotion Act.

For a general market, food vendors will NOT be permitted to sell food prepared at an uninspected premises.

Farmers’ Market

A Farmers’ Market is a central location where a group of people and/or food vendors meet to sell food products to the public. These food products may include farm products, baked goods, preserved foods and prepared foods that incorporate their own products (also known as value added goods).

To be classified as a Farmers’ Market, greater than 50% (e.g.,50% + 1) of the vendors must sell their own farm products. For example, if there are 20 vendors in a market, 11 vendors must offer for sale their own farm products and at least 50% of these products must be from their own farm.

Farm products means products that are grown, raised or produced on a farm and intended for use as food and include, without being restricted to, fruits and vegetables, mushrooms, meat and meat products, dairy products, honey products, maple products, fish, grains and seeds and seed products.

The Ontario Regulation 493: Food Premises does not apply to Farmers’ Markets. However, other relevant legislation such as the Health Protection and Promotion Act (HPPA) still apply.


Ontario Health Protection and Promotion Act, (1990).
Ontario Regulation 493: Food Premises (2017).

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