Toronto hosts many special events and festivals every year. Toronto Public Health helps event organizers keep their event food-safe and minimize the risk of food borne illness.

The information below is designed to inform organizers and food vendors of the food safety requirements for special events.

Notify Toronto Public Health of a Special Event

  • All food sold must be obtained from an approved source e.g. inspected by a government agency.
  • Home prepared foods are not allowed.
  • Unpasteurized food such as apple cider and/or milk are not permitted for sale or given as samples.
  • Protect food from contamination during storage, preparation, transportation and display.
  • Provide an adequate supply of potable water for food preparation.
  • Food preparation and serving areas must be kept clean at all times.
  • Hazardous food must be transported, stored and maintained at required temperatures to keep food safe at all times.
  • Pack cold hazardous food in insulated coolers with ice or ice packs.
  • Avoid leaving food coolers in direct sunlight or on a warm surface.
  • Keep cooler(s) in the shade with the lid closed.
  • Never leave food in a hot vehicle.
  • Make sure cooler and refrigerated truck temperatures are kept at 4°C (39°F) or below.
  • Transport hot hazardous food in hot holding units or insulated containers that will keep the food temperatures at 60°C (140°F) or above.
  • Provide accurate indicating thermometers in cold and hot holding units to monitor temperatures.
  • Before and after handling food, always wash your hands with clean water and liquid soap.
  • Keep raw meat, poultry and fish and their juices away from other food.
  • Make sure food that is thawing is kept in your refrigerator or cooler. At room temperature, bacteria can grow in the outer layer of food before the inside thaws.
  • All food preparation prior to the event should be done at an inspected food premises. This includes chopping ingredients, marinating, mixing and other forms of food processing.
  • Preparation of food at the event should be limited to final assembly and cooking while minimizing the time that food is out at room temperature during preparation.
  • Avoid cross contamination by using separate plates and/or utensils for raw meat and ready-to-eat food. Raw meat juices can spread bacteria to ready-to-eat food which can cause foodborne illness.
  • Keep marinated food in the refrigerator or cooler to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.
  • All ice or steam must be made from potable water obtained from an approved source.
  • Ice must be transported, stored and dispensed in a sanitary manner.
  • Ice for consumption must be stored in a clean enclosed container or in the original package to prevent contamination.
  • If ice is used to keep hazardous food cold, make sure an adequate supply of ice is readily available.
  • Avoid direct hand contact with ice being used for human consumption by using tongs or scoops.
  • Tongs or scoops used to dispense ice must be stored in a clean container and not directly on the ice.

It takes thorough cooking to kill harmful bacteria. Eating meat, poultry or fish that is raw or not fully cooked could cause food poisoning.

  • Use a probe thermometer to check that the meat, poultry or fish is cooked or reheated to the correct internal temperature (refer to Cooking and Reheating chart).
  • Meat, poultry and fish is cooked when it reaches the correct internal temperature.
  • Bring sauces, soups and gravy to a boil.
  • Steamtables, chaffing dishes, display/drawer warmers etc. are not considered cooking equipment and are not to be used for reheating food.
  • Heating and cooking hazardous food can kill bacteria which may cause foodborne illness. All meats must be thoroughly cooked and reheated to the proper internal temperature.
  • An accurate probe thermometer should be used to check the internal temperature of cooked and reheated foods for at least 15 seconds.

Keep Hot Food Hot

  • Hot hazardous food must be kept at 60°C (140°F) and above.
  • Equipment such as steam tables, rice cookers and chafing dishes must be provided to maintain hot hazardous food at 60°C (140°F) and above.

Keep Cold Food Cold

  • Cold hazardous food must be kept at 4°C (39°F) and below.
  • Equipment such as insulated coolers with ice, ice packs and mechanical refrigeration must be provided to keep cold hazardous food at 4°C (39°F) and below.

Keep Frozen Food Frozen

  • Frozen hazardous food items must be maintained in a frozen state

Danger Zone

Bacteria that can cause food poisoning grows quickly at temperatures between 4°C (39°F) and 60°C (140°F) which is known as the danger zone. Food should be kept out of the danger zone.

  • Food probe thermometer(s) must be available to check the internal temperature of hot and cold hazardous food.
  • Accurate thermometers must be provided in all hot and cold storage units such as coolers, refrigerators, freezers, warmers and display units.
  • When in doubt, throw out hazardous food affected by improper temperatures.
  • Use an accurate probe thermometer to check the internal temperature of cooked and reheated food for at least 15 seconds.
  • Insert the probe thermometer in several spots and in the thickest part of the meat.
  • A probe thermometer should not touch bone to avoid inaccurate temperatures.
  • Wash and sanitize the probe thermometer between uses to prevent cross contamination.
  • Accurate thermometers must be provided in all hot and cold storage units such as coolers, refrigerators, freezers, warmers and display units.
  • Use clean disposable food containers and utensils to serve food.
  • Keep cold hazardous foods on ice or serve from the cooler or refrigerated unit.
  • Provide at least four sets of wrapped, clean, back-up cooking utensils such as spoons, tongs, ladles and ice cream scoops when a two-compartment sink is not available for washing, rinsing and sanitizing utensils. Do not re-use utensils that are contaminated.
  • Protect food from contamination by covering it with a lid, plastic wrap, aluminium foil or wrap items individually. Where possible provide sneeze guards.
  • Individually pre-packaged food must be served from their original container.
  • Dispense condiments safely by providing separate containers with self-closing lids, dispensers or individual packages.
  • Disposable utensils must be stored pre-wrapped or in a clean container. Cutlery must be stored with handles upright and cups must be handled from the bottom.
  • Use tongs, serving spoons, ladles and spatulas to serve food into individual sample size portions
  • Food samples should be offered in single portions by using individual sample size portions
  • Guest/patrons must not be able to touch other food samples while they are taking their own samples.
  • Racks, shelves or pallets that are used to store food must be designed to protect the food from contamination and must be readily cleanable Store food in food grade containers.
  • Garbage bags must not be used to store or cover unwrapped food.
  • Provide an adequate number of tables and cutting boards for preparation and service of food.
  • Bring extra supplies of towels, sponges or cloths for cleaning and sanitizing.
  • All food contact equipment and surfaces must be smooth, non-absorbent and easy to clean.
  • All equipment and work areas must be maintained in a clean and sanitary condition.
  • All equipment must be in good working condition.
  • Provide sufficient lighting when required.
  • Provide an adequate supply of power and equipment to keep food safe such as, propane, warming fuel and generators.
  • In the event of a power disruption, make sure a backup supply of power is available.

Food served at outdoor events must be prepared and dispensed under a structure to protect food from contamination. This structure must be sturdy and have a waterproof cover such as a canopy, umbrella or tarp.

  • Provide barriers around cooking equipment such as barbeques and deep fryers to protect the public from injury and prevent access to food preparation areas.
  • Contact Toronto Fire Services for canopy and clearance requirements.

Hand washing is a very important step to prevent disease transmission and cross contamination of food. Hand washing stations are required for all vendors conducting any on-site food preparation, including but not limited to: cooking, reheating, portioning, serving, and any other food preparation steps.

  • A temporary hand washing station must consist of:
    • a container with a spigot and potable water,
    • liquid soap in a dispenser,
    • paper towels and
    • an container to collect waste water
  • It is strongly recommended that vendors have a self-contained portable hand washing station with a container that provides a flow of hot & cold potable water
  • All food handlers must wash their hands properly with clean water and liquid soap before and after handling food, and after
    • using the washroom,
    • smoking,
    • handling garbage,
    • handling cash,
    • sneezing, coughing or blowing their nose and as often as necessary to maintain clean hands.

Please note: Any booth not providing a temporary or a self-contained portable hand washing station with the required supplies will be closed and/or operations suspended. Also, hand sanitizers do not replace the requirements for a portable hand washing station.

  • Food handlers must wear clean clothes, aprons and hair restraints such as hairnets or caps while handling food.
  • Eating, drinking or smoking is not allowed in any food preparation area or while preparing food.
  • Food handlers must be free of infection or disease that can be spread through food.
  • Food handlers with cuts and/or abrasions on their hands must wear clean gloves.
  • If gloves are worn they must be clean and changed between tasks.
  • Hands must be washed between glove changes.
  • Provide an adequate supply of potable water and cleaning supplies for equipment and food contact surfaces.
  • Provide proper cloths and/or sponges to clean and sanitize food contact surfaces and equipment.
  • If cloths are stored in a sanitizing solution, the solution must be changed frequently.
  • Cleaning chemicals and sanitizers must be properly labelled and stored away from food.
  • Provide the correct test reagents/strips to confirm the strength of the sanitizing solution being used i.e. chlorine test strip for chlorine sanitizer.
  • Where a 2-compartment sink is available, ensure utensils are washed and rinsed in the first sink and sanitized in the second sink. Provide hot and cold running water under pressure when utensils are washed on site.
  • Provide an adequate supply of plastic garbage bags and containers.
  • Garbage containers must be durable, washable and leak-proof.
  • All liquid waste such as cooking oil or wastewater must be contained in a leak-proof container/bucket.
  • Make arrangements for sanitary disposal of all liquid waste.
  • Toronto’s Solid Waste Management division also has a ‘Special Events Waste Diversion Handbook’ that is a useful tool in developing a waste management plan. For more information contact City of Toronto – Solid Waste Management Services or call 311.
  • Food must be protected from vermin, pests and animals. Secure all food for overnight storage for multiple day events.
  • The event organizer is responsible for providing washroom facilities.
  • Washrooms must be maintained in a clean and sanitary condition and provided with toilet paper.
  • Hand washing stations must be equipped with liquid soap in a dispenser, paper towels and potable water.
  • Arrangements must be made for the proper removal of waste from temporary washrooms.

Any food booth will not be allowed to open or operate:

  • where a health hazard exists, or
  • without a hand wash station with appropriate supplies.

Applies to patios where food or drink are served during a special event.

If you operate a beer garden or an extension to an existing patio, then you have responsibilities under the Act.

Smoking is not permitted on any patio where food or drinks are served.

It is your responsibility to:

  • post no smoking signs at all entrances and exits to the patio,
  • ensure that no one smokes on the patio, and
  • ensure there are no ashtrays on the patio, including anything that acts as an ashtray (i.e. coffee cups).

For more information about how the Smoke-Free Ontario Act applies to special events and to obtain “No Smoking” signs, please contact Toronto Health Connections at 416-338-7600 or call 311.

For more information on the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, please visit the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care website: