Temporary Food Events

Temporary food events are generally sponsored by clubs, organizations, schools, churches and civic organizations in the community. The event involves either the sale or donation of food to the public.

Fundraisers and social events are invaluable to communities. Westford is fortunate to have a number of active churches, clubs and civic organizations raising funds for many worthwhile programs such as scholarships, medical equipment, educational and sport programs. Often fundraisers and social events involve the preparation and serving of food. The purpose of the regulation is not to prohibit temporary food events, but to ensure public safety for individuals attending. We understand in the past, events may or may not have been operated under a food permit, however the latest revisions to The Massachusetts Food Code is very specific in regards to the preparation and serving of food. A temporary food permit is required for events preparing and serving food.

Food-Borne Illnesses

Food-borne illness often presents itself as the flu. Symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, and fever. Due to the nature and the speed symptoms may move through the body, people often do not suspect the illness was caused by bacteria or other pathogens in food. Many people do not think about food safety until a food related illness affects them or a family member.

The CDC estimates there are 75 million cases, 300,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths per year related to food borne illness.

Revised Regulations Affect on Fundraisers

Temporary food events require a permit, and food for the event must be prepared in a commercial kitchen that has a current permit issued by a local health department.

Potentially high risk foods such as meat, fish, poultry, salads, sandwiches, soups, cream filled baked goods, beans, and cut fruit may not be prepared in a person's home and donated to an organization for a public event. These foods must be prepared in a commercial kitchen that has a food permit. In Westford, many of our churches and clubs have commercial kitchens that have a permit.

Bake Sales

Bake sales are limited to informal activities where cookies, cakes, fruit pies, breads and other low risk foods are sold to the public. These events are a one time, one location event and generally do not require a food permit. You may obtain printed guidelines at the Board of Health office regarding Bake Sales.

Food Prepared at Home

The regulations are very strict regarding foods prepared in a private home. The only foods that may be prepared at home are low risk foods for bake sales and foods that are for donation to a not for profit organization, such as a church or soup kitchen, and the food is intended for the homeless.

Why Get a Permit

There are many benefits to preparing and serving food safely. Protecting your customers and your reputation are of the highest concern. A well-run event will bring greater participation, repeat customers and higher profits. In the event of a food borne illness, you can show you ran your event "by the book." Handling food safely helps to preserve its appearance, flavor, texture and nutritive value.

By serving safe food you can avoid legal fees, medical claims, and bad publicity.

Getting a Permit

Contact the Westford Health Department Monday through Friday 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. to obtain an application. The fee for a temporary permit for events not serving potentially hazardous foods (PHFs) is $30. The fee for a temporary permit for events serving PHFs is $50.

Discounts for Nonprofit Organizations

In the interest trying to help save nonprofits some, potentially unforeseen expenditures in the future, the BOH drafted a new policy that discounts Temporary (only) food permit fees for nonprofit corporations federally classified as 501(C)(3) for tax purposes As such, if a corporation can prove that it is currently, federally classified as a 501(C)(3) Non-Profit, and should your Temporary (only) event require a food permit issued through the BOH, then the fee for such events are as follows:
  1. Fees for events serving ONLY Non-Potentially Hazardous Foods (Non-PHFs) shall be waived.
  2. Fees for events serving ONLY Non-PHFs and/or pizza OR hotdogs shall be the regular price.
  3. Fees for events serving PHFs while a currently certified Food Protection Manager is present for the entire event duration that food is being offered, shall be the regular price.
FYI, Potentially Hazardous Food legal definition:
  1. Potentially hazardous food means a food that is natural or synthetic and that requires temperature control because it is in a form capable of supporting:
    1. The rapid and progressive growth of infectious or toxigenic microorganisms;
    2. The growth and toxin production of Clostridium botulinum; or
    3. In raw shell eggs, the growth of Salmonella Enteritidis
  2. 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 results in mixtures that do not support growth as specified under Subparagraph (a) of this definition.
  3. Potentially hazardous food does not include:
    1. An air-cooled hard-boiled egg with shell intact;
    2. A food with a water activity (aw) value of 0.85 or less;
    3. A food with a pH level of 4.6 or below when measured at 24 degrees Celsius (75 degrees Fahrenheit);
    4. A food, in an unopened hermetically sealed container, that is commercially processed to achieve and maintain commercial sterility under conditions of non-refrigerated storage and distribution; and
    5. A food for which laboratory evidence demonstrates that the rapid and progressive growth of infectious or toxigenic microorganisms or the growth of S Enteritidis in eggs or C. botulinum can not occur, such as a food that has an aw and a pH that are above the levels specified under Subparagraphs (c)(ii) and (iii) of this definition and that may contain a preservative, other barrier to the growth of microorganisms, or a combination of barriers that inhibit the growth of microorganisms
    6. A food that does not support the growth of microorganisms as specified under Subparagraph (a) of this definition even though the food may contain an infectious or toxigenic microorganism or chemical or physical contaminant at a level sufficient to cause illness