Food permit exemptions
Find out which foods or food service operations do not need food business permits.
What food services do not need a permit?
Some food service operations are exempt from the food code and do not need a food business permit. They may be regulated by other agencies, of have low risk to causing foodborne illness. It is still important to follow safe food handling practices. The following food services are exempt:
- A business that offers only non-Time/Temperature Control for Safety (TCS*) foods. This food must come from a licensed food business or food processing plant. You can serve them from the original package without direct hand contact using single-service or disposable containers. Examples:
- Premixed soda pop
- Powdered creamer
- Meat jerky
- A business that offers only fruits, vegetables, and fresh herbs. These samples must be non-TCS* produce.
- A food processing plant, cottage food operation, or other business regulated by the Washington State Department of Agriculture or the United States Department of Agriculture.
- A business that offers only hot beverages that are non-TCS*. You can serve them into single service or disposable cups. Examples are coffee, hot tea, or hot pasteurized apple cider.
- A business that offers only dry foods that are non-TCS* foods. These are not ready-to-eat. Examples are dry beans, dry grains, in-shell nuts, coffee beans, tea leaves, or herbs for tea.
- A business that offers only pre-packaged frozen confections. They must come from a licensed food business or food processing plant. Examples are ice cream or frozen yogurt in original cups or wrappers.
- A residential kitchen in a private home or other location, to prepare baked goods only (example: for a bake sale). They must be non-TCS* foods and wrapped in a sanitary way. A nonprofit organization operating for religious, charitable, or educational reasons can offer or sell these. There must be a visible sign that the food comes from a kitchen and is not inspected by a regulatory authority.
- A location that prepares foods as noted above, and offers or sells them.
- A hotel, motel or similar business that maintains an ice dispensing machine. Guests can use the ice for self-service. A food business cannot use the ice.
- A kitchen in a private home operated as a family day care provider as defined in RCW 43.215.010 (1)(c) or an adult family home as defined in RCW 70.128.010. Use of the kitchen is only to prepare food for residents or children based on the operation license.
- A private home that receives catered or home-delivered food.
- A private home or other location used for a private event.
- A donor kitchen.
- A location used for a potluck.
- A location, not including special events as defined in RCW 82.32.033, operating thirty or fewer days per calendar year, used by a person under the age of eighteen for the sale of nonalcoholic beverages, such as lemonade, using non-TCS* foods with no direct hand contact and served directly into single-service or disposable containers. Example: a child's lemonade stand.
- Bed and breakfast operation that prepares and offers food to guests if the home is owner occupied, the number of available guest bedrooms does not exceed two, breakfast is the only meal offered, and the consumer is informed in published advertisements, mailed brochures, and placards posted at the registration area that the food is prepared in a kitchen that is not regulated or inspected by the regulatory authority.
What foods need an application for exemption from permit?
The following foods do not need a permit as long as they are the only foods served, but you must submit an Exempt from Permit application and obtain approval from the Health Department:
- Popcorn, including kettle corn.
- Cotton candy.
- Herbs and spices, if processed in an approved facility.
- Machine crushed ice drinks, such as slushies or slurpies. The frozen mix must dispense completely from a self-enclosed machine.
- Corn on the cob. It can have butter, shake on spices, or commercial mayonnaise from a squeeze bottle only.
- Whole roasted peppers.
- Roasted nuts or peanuts, including candy-coated.
- Fruits and vegetables. These samples must be non-TCS* produce.
- Chocolate-dipped ice cream bars prepared from pre-packaged ice cream bars produced in a food-processing plant.
- Individual samples of sliced fruits and vegetables that are non-TCS* foods.
- Chocolate-dipped bananas prepared from bananas peeled and frozen in an approved facility.
How do I apply for a permit exemption?
- Verify your food or food services do not need a permit.
- Complete the Application for Exemption from Permit (197 KB).
- Print and mail the completed form to:
Eastgate Environmental Health Services
14350 SE Eastgate Way
Bellevue, WA 98007
Seattle Environmental Health Services
401 5th Avenue, Suite 1100
Seattle, WA 98104
Nonprofit organizations may offer baked goods for religious, charitable, or educational purposes, without a permit. They must be non-TCS* foods and wrapped in a sanitary way. There must be a visible sign that the food comes from a kitchen and is not inspected by a regulatory authority. Examples are cookies, muffins, double crust fruit pies, and bread.
Foods such as pumpkin pie, custards, and whipped cream toppings are not allowed.