1. Does everyone selling food need to be licensed as a retail food establishment?
No. According to the Colorado Food Protection Act, “retail food establishment” means a retail operation that stores, prepares, or packages food for human consumption or serves or otherwise provides food for human consumption to consumers directly or indirectly through a delivery service, whether such food is consumed on or off the premises or whether there is a charge for such food. “Retail food establishment” does not mean:
(a) Any private home;
(b) Private boarding houses;
(c) Hospital and health facility patient feeding operations licensed by the department;
(d) Child care centers and other child care facilities licensed by the department of human services;
(e) Hunting camps and other outdoor recreation locations where food is prepared in the field rather than at a fixed base of operation;
(f) Food or beverage wholesale manufacturing, processing, or packaging plants, or portions thereof, that are subject to regulatory controls under state or federal laws or regulations;
(g) Motor vehicles used only for the transport of food;
(h) Establishments preparing and serving only hot coffee, hot tea, instant hot beverages, and nonpotentially hazardous doughnuts or pastries obtained from sources complying with all laws related to food and food labeling;
(i) Establishments that handle only nonpotentially hazardous prepackaged food and operations serving only commercially prepared, prepackaged foods requiring no preparation other than the heating of food within its original container or package;
(j) Farmers markets and roadside markets that offer only uncut fresh fruit and vegetables for sale;
(k) Automated food merchandising enterprises that supply only prepackaged nonpotentially hazardous food or drink or food or drink in bottles, cans, or cartons only, and operations that dispense only chewing gum or salted nuts in their natural protective covering;
(l) The donation, preparation, sale, or service of food by a nonprofit or charitable organization in conjunction with an event or celebration if such donation, preparation, sale, or service of food:
(I) Does not exceed the duration of the event or celebration or a maximum of fifty-two days within a calendar year; and
(II) Takes place in the county in which such nonprofit or charitable organization resides or is principally located.
(m) A home, commercial, private, or public kitchen in which a person produces food products sold directly to consumers pursuant to the "Colorado Cottage Foods Act", section 254-1614.
Colorado Food Protection Act
2. Our nonprofit organization wants to sell food. Can we do it without a retail food license?
Yes; provided you operate within the conditions above in (l), then you are not licensed or regulated as a retail food establishment. To aid in interpretation, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) offered the following 1995 guidance (italicized) pertaining to nonprofit or charitable organizations:
* NONPROFIT ORGANIZATION - Is an organization that is exempt from taxation under Section 501 (c) (3) of the federal "Internal Revenue Code of 1986" or which has been organized for purposes of a social, fraternal, patriotic, political, or athletic nature, and not for pecuniary gain, or which is a regularly chartered branch, lodge, or chapter of a national organization or society organized for such purposes and being nonprofit in nature, or which is a regularly established religious or philanthropic institution. Prima facie evidence of nonprofit status includes the existence of federal 501 (c) (3) status or incorporation under the laws of this state.
* CHARITABLE ORGANIZATION - Means any organization established for any benevolent, educational, philanthropic, humane, scientific, patriotic, social welfare or advocacy, public health, environmental, conservation, civic, or other eleemosynary purpose; veterans or any person who operates for the benefit of the objectives of law enforcement officers, fire fighters, other persons who protect the public safety.
* The donation, sale, or service of food must be in conjunction with an event or celebration. The terms event and celebration have similar definitions. Webster's Dictionary defines an event or celebration as an occurrence, something that happens, a social occasion. For example, a county fair, spring fest, church spaghetti dinner, Kiwanis Club pancake breakfast, etc.
* The sale or service of food cannot be for more than 52 days in a calendar year. This can be 52 consecutive days, one day a week; or any sequence of days as long as it does not exceed a total of 52 days between January 1 through December 31st
* The nonprofit or charitable organization selling or serving the food must reside in or be principally located in the county in which the event or celebration occurs. Organizations operating food service establishments outside of the county in which they reside or are principally located are subject to regulation.
3. I want to sell cottage foods. Do I need to have a retail food license?
No, provided that you operate pursuant to the Colorado Cottage Foods Act as stated above in (m). If you do, then you are not licensed or regulated as a retail food establishment.
certificate of license (no fee) may be issued to and in the name and address of any:
(I) Parochial, public, or private school;
(II) Penal institution;
(III) Charitable organization and benevolent, nonprofit retail food establishment conducted for the purpose of assisting elderly, incapacitated, or disadvantaged persons; and
(IV) Nonprofit or charitable organization that donates, prepares, sells, or serves food in conjunction with an event or celebration if such donation, preparation, sale, or service of food:
(A) Does not exceed the duration of the event or celebration or a maximum of fifty-two days within a calendar year; and
(B) Takes place in the county in which such nonprofit or charitable organization resides or is principally located.
Food Service at Special Events (Non Temporary)
The Colorado Retail Food Establishment Rules and Regulations define "Temporary Event" as a single community event or celebration that operates for a period of time of not more the fourteen (14) consecutive days and may include town celebrations, fairs, and festivals.
Colorado Retail Food Establishment Rules and Regulations, or
Chapter 9 of the Colorado Retail Food Establishment Rules and Regulations.
Retail Food Establishment Rules and Regulations
Retail Food Establishment License Application for Calendar Year 2013