McHenry County Department of Health - Environmental Health
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Temporary Food Events

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Temporary Food Establishment


 Do I need a Temporary Health Permit? (permit exemptions) [PDF]

 Temp Food brochure cover

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A Temporary Food event is any event that meets the following criteria:

  • Operates at a fixed location 
  • For not more than 14 consecutive days
  • In conjunction with a single event or celebration

Article III of the Public Health Ordinance for McHenry County limits foods for temporary events to very simple foods such as hamburgers or hotdogs. More complex foods can be served if the critical control points in the food handling process are monitored properly and the menu is approved by the Department.


Health Permit

A health permit is required to operate a temporary food facility. Permit fees are based upon risk category. Permit applications and a current fee schedule are available at the Health Department or online at

****Applications must be received five (5) days in advance of the event or a late fee will be assessed.*****



It is the operator’s responsibility to assure adequate and ongoing supervision of all those who handle food. The Department recommends the presence of a certified food manager at all times.


Risk Classifications

All food establishments in McHenry County are classified as Category I (high risk), Category II (medium risk) or Category III (low risk). The categories are determined based upon the types of foods served, the complexity of the food handling procedures, and the population served.

Pre-packaged, non-potentially hazardous foods. A permit is not required for a Category 3 Food Facility.
Examples of Category 3 Menu Items:

  • Chips
  • Candy
  • Canned Soda
  • Pre-packaged ice cream

NOTE: Category 3 food establishments must still adhere to the requirements of Article III.

Foods with limited preparation or handling.
Examples of Category 2 Menu Items:

  • Hotdogs, Bratwurst
  • Nachos and Cheese
  • Commercially prepared Chili, Barbecues
  • Corn on the Cob
  • Scooped ice cream, Funnel Cakes

Foods with extensive or complicated preparation or high risk foods. Category 1 are of the highest concern due to the complexity of the foods prepared, the potential for a foodborne illness is greater.

Examples of Category 1 Menu Items:

  • Freshly Made Chili, Soups, Barbecues
  • Ribs, Chicken
  • Tacos
  • Egg Rolls
  • Pig Roasts
  • Shish Kebobs
  • Prepared Salads, etc.

Health Department Staff is available to speak with groups of operators on how to have a safe temporary food event.


Process for Approval

  1. Submittal of the Temporary Food Establishment Health Permit Application and appropriate fee 5 days prior to event.
  2. Health Department Staff contacts the person in charge of the event to review complete menu and evaluate the food handling process for each menu item. 
  3. General requirements are reviewed (i.e. physical facilities, water supply, sewage disposal, handwashing, dishwashing facilities). 
  4. A pre-operational inspection is completed by Health Department Staff on the day of the event.  Click here to review the food establishment self-inspection checklist.
  5. Permit is issued at the site following inspection approval.

NOTE: The Health Department should be contacted early in the planning process to allow time for necessary changes.


Food Supplies and Equipment

  • Equipment must be durable, easily cleanable, and of food grade material.
  • Unapproved items include Nesco Roasters, enamelware and crockpots.
  • Food supplies must be obtained from approved sources.
  • Home canned or home prepared food are prohibited.
  • Pasteurized products should be used (i.e. eggs, dressings, sauces).


Employee Practices

It is critical that food employees utilize good sanitation practices.

  • Hands must be washed before handling food, after smoking, eating, drinking, etc.
  • Smoking, eating and drinking are prohibited in the food storage, display, preparation, service and dishwashing areas.


Advanced Food Preparation

  • Advanced preparation is discouraged since large quantities of food requiring cooling can tax the physical facilities even in licensed food establishments. Increased handling of food products also increases the chances for biological, physical or chemical contaminations.
  • Food should be prepared as needed whenever possible to minimize the amount of time and number of times the food will be in the “danger zone” of 41°F to 135°F.
  • Advance food preparation and cooling may be considered when a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) plan for the food has been approved by the Department.


Partial Cooking

Partial cooking of food is prohibited because it can leave the center portions of food at dangerous temperatures (41°F-135°F) for extended periods of time. All potentially hazardous foods must be cooked in one continuous process to the minimum internal temperature required.



  • Foods which have been prepared in advance must be rapidly reheated to a minimum internal temperature of 165°F and held at 135°F or above.
  • Foods may not be reheated in steam tables, warmers or bain-maries. Reheating foods from a previous day may be done with prior Health Department approval and when a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) analysis has confirmed it can be done safely.
  • Unused prepared foods must be discarded at the end of each day.


Temperature Controls

The temperature of the foods must be carefully monitored during all stages of food preparation with a metal stemmed food thermometer. Thermometers must be available at the site of the temporary food event and used frequently.



To prevent contamination, foods must be transported to the event in covered, food grade containers.

Foods must be maintained at the required temperatures during transport. Transport units must maintain hot or cold temperatures such as NSF approved insulated containers. Using a sanitized, calibrated metal stemmed thermometer, food temperatures should be verified:

  • At the establishment
  • Upon arrival at the temporary event
  • When transferred to hot or cold holding units. (Food should be transferred immediately.)



  • Foods should be displayed so as to prevent contamination (i.e. dust, insects, customers, etc.).
  • Foods need to be covered with a food grade, smooth and easily cleanable or disposable material.
  • A sneeze shield must be provided for any self service foods.
  • While on display, all potentially hazardous foods must be maintained at 135°F or above or 41°F or below.
  • Condiments should be individually packaged (i.e. ketchup, sugar, mustard, etc.) or in approved pour-type dispenser.
  • All food supplies and products should be stored a minimum of 6" off the floor.
  • Ice cubes used for cooling beverage containers or foods may not be used for human consumption.
  • No wrapped or packaged food may be in direct contact with undrained ice, except canned and bottled beverages with at least 50 ppm chlorine.


Portable Toilets and Hand Sinks

All outdoor temporary food events must provide an adequate number of toilets and handwashing stations for the public. See flyer entitled "Portable Toilet at Food Service Establishments" for specific regulations.


Physical Facilities

Minimum physical facilities required:

  • All food operations (preparation, storage, closed flame cooking equipment, holding, display and service) must be located under a canopy or roof. Open flame cooking equipment should be located out from under the canopy.* 
  • Depending on the complexity of the operation, floors, walls and screening may be required.
  • Enough hot and cold potable water shall be available for food preparation, cleaning, sanitizing and handwashing.
  • All hoses must be of food grade material.
  • A facility for handwashing is required. Where water under pressure is unavailable, a container of warm water (with a spigot or drain plug), soap, individual towels and a wastebasket must be provided.
  • A three tub setup must be provided in the food preparation area for washing, rinsing and sanitizing. 
  • Approved (by the Department) refrigeration and hot holding facilities must be provided to maintain foods at required temperatures.
  • Disposal of wastewater should be into an approved sewer or septic system.

    *Consult with your local fire district regarding set-back distances for cooking equipment using liquid propane gas (LPG) and open flames, canopy treatment and fire extinguisher requirements.

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