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FAQs for Certified Farmers' Market (CFM's)

Who is responsible for regulating Certified Farmers Markets?

Local environmental health agencies are responsible for regulating CFMs as defined in the California Retail Food Code (CalCode), Sections 114370 - 114373.

Does a CFM need a health permit?

Yes. CFMs are defined in CalCode as food facilities and therefore are required to have valid health permits.

Is a permit required for each producer selling agricultural products at a CFM?

No. All agricultural vendors (certified and non-certified) As well as non-agricultural vendors selling at a CFM are part of that facility and are covered under the health permits for the CFM. Since the health permits cover all certified, non-certified, and non-agricultural vendors that are part of the CFM, the CFM market manager is responsible for ensuring that each vendor is in compliance with CalCode.

What is a "non-certifiable agricultural product" and what are some of these products that may be found in CFM?

These products are part of the definition of agricultural products, but are not certified by the agricultural commissioner. Products that are considered non-certifiable include processed products from certified agricultural products such as fruit and vegetable juices, shelled nuts, jams and jellies, and wine. Other examples include catfish, trout, and oysters from controlled aquaculture operations, livestock and livestock products, and poultry and poultry products.Though these products are not "certified", they have been produced or derived from plants or animals raised or produced by the producer. These non-certifiable processed agricultural products may include, or have added to them, a limited number of ingredients or additives which only act as preservatives or are essential on the preparation of the product. Examples include pickles and cucumbers in a brine or vinegar solution for curing or pickling, natural smoking of meat or poultry for drying and preserving, flavorings such as smokehouse, hickory, or jalapeno added to shelled nuts which do not change the visual identity of the product, sulfites added to dried fruits and vegetables, and sugar, and fruit juices, and to make jams and jellies.
Non-certifiable agricultural food products must be from an "approved source".

What is considered an "approved source"?

Possession of a valid Certified Producer certificate by the seller is considered an approved source for certified agriculture products. For non-certifiable agricultural food products, the processing and storage location must be under regulation by an authority acceptable to the State Department of Health Services or local environmental health agency.
Examples of approved sources include a Food Registration from the State Food and Drug Branch, a local environmental health agency permit from the jurisdiction where production takes place, or a federal inspection certificate.

Can non-agricultural products be sold at a CFM?

Yes. Non-agricultural vendors and Temporary Food Facilities may operate adjacent to and under jurisdiction of a Certified Farmers Market and may store, display, and sell from a table or display fixture in a manner approved by the local enforcement agency.

What does "vendors selling adjacent to and under the jurisdiction and management of a Certified Farmers Market" mean?

This phrase means vendors who are selling non-agricultural products on property controlled by the CFM manager and who contract with the CFM manager for a sales space. Vendors who meet these requirements may store, display, and sell from a table or display apart from the vehicle, in a manner approved by local law enforcement.

What are acceptable ways of displaying agricultural products at a CFM?

In most cases, certified and non-certifiable agricultural products are displayed on tables. Section 114047 and 114371(a) requires that food shall be stored at least 6 inches off the floor or ground or under any other conditions which are approved. Bulk ready-to-eat foods, such as shelled nuts and dried fruit, shall be protected from contamination. Acceptable methods include prepackaging food at an approved facility or displaying food in approved containers with lids. Dispensing methods shall avoid direct hand contact with ready-to-eat food, and shall be approved by the local environmental health agency.

What are acceptable ways of selling "salad mixes"?

Certain types of lettuce are harvested as single leaves and can be combined to create a "salad mix". However, any processing of produce beyond trimming, such as chopping or shredding, or selling a salad mix as "washed, ready-to-eat", would be considered food preparation and subject to CalCode requirements for processed food.

Is sampling permitted at a CFM?

Yes. Preparation and distribution of food samples from agricultural products is allowed provided that the following sanitary conditions exist:

  1. Samples shall be kept in approved, clean covered containers.
  2. All food samples shall be distributed by the producer in a sanitary manner.
  3. Clean, disposable plastic gloves shall be used when cutting food samples.
  4. Food intended for sampling shall be washed, or cleaned in another manner, of any soil or other material by potable water in order that it is wholesome and safe for consumption.
  5. Potable water shall be available for hand washing and sanitizing as approved by the local enforcement agency.
  6. Potentially hazardous food samples shall be maintained at or below 41°F. All other food samples shall be disposed of within two hours after cutting.
  7. Utensil and hand washing water shall be disposed of in a facility connected to a public sewer system or in a manner approved by the local environmental health agency.
  8. Utensils and cutting surfaces shall be smooth, nonabsorbent, and easily cleaned or disposed of as approved by the local enforcement agency.

Is sampling permitted by vendors operating adjacent to a CFM?

Yes. Vendors operating mobile food facilities, mobile food preparation units, or Temporary Food Facilities may provide samples if they are in compliance with CalCode Chapter 10 or 11. These requirements may be more restrictive than the sampling requirements for vendors of agricultural products at the CFM.

Can uninspected, processed poultry be sold at a CFM?

No. The Department of Food and Agriculture exemption from the State's laws that require inspection and licensing of poultry slaughter plants does not apply to sales at retail food facilities. Since the CFM is a retail food facility and the Direct Marketing Regulations require compliance with CalCode, un inspected poultry, including rabbits, would not be from an approved source. Therefore, it could not be sold at a CFM. Producers raising poultry for sale at a CFM should request inspection and licensing from the California Department of Food and Agriculture, Meat and Poultry Inspection Branch, or have their poultry processed at a licensed facility.

Can uninspected meat be sold at a CFM?

No. All red meat must be from an approved source. A "custom cut" operation under inspection by the State Department of Food and Agriculture is not an approved source for retail sales of red meat. The United States Department of Agriculture is the recognized regulatory authority for inspection of cattle, calf, sheep, swine, and goat processing plants.

Can food facilities such as restaurants purchase agricultural products sold at a CFM?

Yes. However, fresh fruits, nuts, and vegetables may only be sold to "non consumers" when complying with all applicable regulations, including standard pack, standard containers, and labeling requirements.

Can potentially hazardous foods be sold at a CFM?

Yes. Potentially hazardous food must be stored and displayed at or below 41°F at all times. Mechanical refrigeration is usually required; however, ice chests may be acceptable for certain types of food, such as those which can be immersed in ice. Use of an ice chest, in lieu of mechanical refrigeration, requires approval from the local environmental health agency.

What type of seafood can be sold at a CFM?

Only fish and shellfish produced under controlled conditions in waters or ponds located in California may be sold at a CFM. This requirement is enforced by the Agricultural Commissioner. No cutting or filleting is allowed at the CFM.

What is required on a label for packaged food?

Labeling of packaged foods must include: name and address of the manufacturer, producer, or distributor; accurate statement of quantity of the contents in terms of weight, measure or numerical count; name of product; ingredients, if two or more ingredients are present, list by order of their predominance by weight, e.g. peanuts, salt.

For the complete list of requirements for food labels, contact the Food and Drug Branch, California Department of Health Services at or 240-402-2375.