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Thurston County, Washington

The content on the Thurston County website is currently provided in English. We are providing the “Translation” for approximately 10 languages. The goal of the translation is to provide visitors with limited English proficiency to access information on the website in other languages. The translations do not translate all types of documents, and it may not give you an exact translation all the time. The translations are made through an automated process, which may not result in accurate or precise translations, particularly of technical and legal terminology.

Public Health and Social Services

What is an Unpermitted Food Vendor?

Unpermitted food vendors are people who are selling food on a cart, table, back of the car trunk, via social media, or from their home without a permit to operate from the Thurston County Public Health & Social Services - Environmental Health Division. The Washington State Retail Food Code requires that all individuals who provide food to the public obtain a permit to operate.​​

When you buy meals online, you gamble with your health and safety. Unpermitted food vendors typically use kitchens that have not been inspected and consumers don’t know if the vendor is following standard food safety practices. These standards protect everyone from foodborne illnesses like norovirus, salmonella, and E. coli. 

Common issues in food preparation that increase the risk of foodborne illness includes:

  • Improper food storage which can cause spoilage or contamination.
  • Food kept at temperatures that can allow for bacteria and other organisms to grow and cause illness.
  • Food can be reused, improperly cooled and reheated multiple times.
  • Food preparers may not have access to a handwashing station or restroom and may resume food preparation without washing their hands.
  • Poor sanitation due to garbage, debris and discarded food accumulating on food preparation surfaces or ground.

If you suspect you have a foodborne illness, report it to us right away. Make a food complaint here.

Take caution when buying food on social media

How can people sell food made at home legally?

The Cottage Food Law allows sellers to make certain baked goods—like cookies and cupcakes—in their home kitchens to sell directly to the public. The Washington State Department of Agriculture has a list of licensed cottage food operators.

Rent a clean, commercially licensed space Commercial Kitchen in Thurston County. Many offer kitchen equipment, work and prep stations, dry storage, and cold storage, and more, serving all of your food-based business needs. Reach out to our Enviornmental Health Food and Enviornmental Health Services Section to obtain an approved food vending permit. 

A food worker card allows people to work in a permitted food service establishment (restaurants, coffee shops, food trucks, etc.). It does not allow them to prepare food at home to sell to the public.

Young woman decorating cookies stock photo

Additional Resources

Contact Us

Contact the Food and Environmental Services Section at 360-867-2667 or send an email to with additional questions.