Sidewalk Food Vendors

This dedicated webpage aims to provide you with essential facts and resources to foster a safe environment for consumers  and sidewalk food vendors. Learn about the food safety requirements, the regulations in place, and the vital role of health permits.

Stay Safe, Stay Informed, and Know Before You Eat.  

Orange County Environmental Health Division

The County's Environmental Health Division works to protect public health and the environment, and promotes the well-being of all Orange County residents, workers and visitors. The Environmental Health Division is a regulatory agency that relies heavily on education and outreach to obtain compliance. Services include retail and wholesale food protection, foodborne illness investigations, solid waste facility oversight, and much more.

The Orange County Environmental Health Division is the enforcement agency that issues permits which authorize a person to operate a food facility or cottage food operation within Orange County. Food facilities include but are not limited to restaurants, carts, food trucks, food booths at events, certified farmer’s markets, and commissaries.

All food facilities that store, prepare, package, serve, vend, or otherwise provide food and beverage for human consumption at a retail or wholesale level must have a valid health permit. Raw, cooked or processed edible substances, ice, water, and chewing gum are examples of food. Businesses that display 25 square feet of prepackaged non-potentially hazardous foods are not required to obtain a health permit, but must register with the County's Environmental Health Division acknowledging that they must comply with applicable sections of the California Retail Food Code.

Senate Bill 946 - Safe Sidewalk Vending Act (SB 946)

On January 1, 2019, SB 946 went into effect, which prohibits California cities from banning stationary or roaming vendors from operating on public sidewalks. SB 946 also prohibits cities from regulating sidewalk vendors unless cities establish a permitting system that is consistent with the provisions of SB 946. Additionally, any restrictions placed on sidewalk vendors must be directly related to objective health, safety, or welfare concerns. Many cities, including Laguna Niguel, have adopted an application process for sidewalk vendors to safely conduct business in designated areas.

Compact Mobile Food Operation (CMFO)

All mobile food facilities were traditionally constructed as a motorized conveyance - trucks and carts. However, effective January 1, 2023, the California Retail Food Code established a new type of mobile food facility called Compact Mobile Food Operation. CMFOs, commonly known as sidewalk food vendors, may include pushcarts, pop-up stands, displays, wagons, etc. 

CMFOs may only sell prepackaged foods, whole uncut produce, or food with limited food preparation. 

Limited Food Preparation 

CMFOs shall only conduct “Limited Food Preparation”. Below is a condensed list of what "Limited Food Preparation" includes and does not include. Please CLICK HERE to view the comprehensive list compiled by the County's Environmental Health Division. 

Limited Food Preparation Includes:Limited Food Preparation Does Not Include:
Heating, frying, baking, roasting, popping, shaving of ice, blending, steaming or boiling of hot dogs, or assembly of non-prepackaged food.Slicing and chopping potentially hazardous food, other than produce, unless it is on the heated cooking surface. 
Dispensing and portioning of non-potentially hazardous food or dispensing and portioning for immediate service to a customer of food that been temperature controlled until immediately prior to portioning or dispensing.Cooling of cooked, potentially hazardous food.
Holding, portioning, and dispensing of any foods that are prepared by a catering operation.Grinding raw ingredients or potentially hazardous food. 

Health Permit 

A health permit is not required, when:

  • 25 square feet or less of display and food storage back stock only prepackaged, non-potentially hazardous food or uncut whole produce is offered.

A health permit is required, when:

  • More than 25 square feet of display area of any type of food is offered.
  • Selling any amount of potentially hazardous, open, or cut food.

For more information, please contact the OC Environmental Health Mobile Food Program at or 714-433-6416.

Food Safety Reminders

Unpermitted vendors can pose health risks, and knowing the facts is the first step to safeguarding your health. The County's Environmental Health Division ensures that food vendors, such as CMFOs, comply with food health and safety laws.

Food Safety Requirements Opens in new window

To learn more about Food Safety Requirements for sidewalk food vendors (CMFOs), please visit the County's website by CLICKING HERE or contact the County's Environmental Health Mobile Food Program at

4 Steps to Food Safety

You can help keep your loved ones and yourself safe from food borne illness (food poisoning) by following these four simple steps: clean, separate, cook and, chill.

Step 1: Clean - Wash Hands, Utensils, and Surfaces Often
Germs that can make you sick can survive in many places, including your food, hands, utensils, cutting boards, and countertops.

Step 2: Separate - Don’t Cross Contaminate
Use separate cutting boards and plates for produce, meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs.

Step 3: Cook to the Right Temperature
Food is safely cooked when the internal temperature is high enough to kill germs that can make you sick. If you’re not serving food right after cooking, keep it out of the temperature danger zone (between 40°F - 140°F) where germs grow rapidly.

Step 4: Chill - Refrigerate and Freeze Food Properly
Refrigerate perishable foods within 2 hours. Bacteria that cause food poisoning multiply quickest between 40°F and 140°F.

For more information, please CLICK HERE

Top 5 Foodborne Illness Risk Factors 

The top five risk factors for foodborne illness outbreaks are:

  1. Improper cooling or heating of perishable food items 
  2. Improper cooking temperatures of food  
  3. Dirty and/or contaminated utensils and equipment  
  4. Poor employee health and hygiene  
  5. Food from unsafe sources  

When food is being prepared by a food vendor, having one or more of these risk factors present dramatically increases the risk of a foodborne illness outbreak. If one risk factor is observed in a retail food facility, it constitutes a major violation and must be immediately corrected. Often the correction involves the destruction of food products to minimize the risk of transmitting a foodborne illness to the public. 

For more information about foodborne illness risk factors, please CLICK HERE

How to Report Foodborne Illness 

Foodborne illness complaints can be reported to the County's Environmental Health Division over the phone at (714) 433-6418 or online. Information provided is confidential and is not given to the food operator or any other third party. If this is a medical emergency, please dial 9-1-1.

Helpful Resources