A farmers’ market is classified as a temporary food establishment. To regulate food safety, the health department follows Missouri Food Code for the Food Establishments of the State of Missouri.

Farmers’ markets are a good outlet to connect consumers with farmers and local food products. However, the more complex the market becomes, the more risk consumers face. Local health departments are working with farmers’ markets to ensure the safety of food for consumers.

Food Safety Regulations

Food Establishments operating in Cape Girardeau County must possess a valid Cape Girardeau County Food & Beverage Permit. Food establishments are defined as "an operation that stores, prepares, packages, serves, vends, or otherwise provides food for human consumption.” 

Exceptions to this rule are found in the Missouri Food Code. Some facilities must meet additional requirements to be exempt from inspection/permit. Please keep in mind that exempted facilities must provide safe, unadulterated food items and are subject to review by the Cape Girardeau County Public Health Center.

Farmer’s Market Vendor Permit Policy

The Cape Girardeau County Food Code does not contain a provision that allows vendors in a farmer’s market setting to obtain an affordable Cape Girardeau County Food & Beverage Permit. To qualify for an annual permit, a vendor must have hot and cold water under pressure. Often, there is no water available at the market site. In addition, the cost of meeting the sink requirements for an annual permit is not reasonable for most vendors. The other permits available through the ordinance would cause undo financial strain and virtually eliminate all food vendors from the market, as they require a $30 fee each and every time a vendor sets up his/her operation. 

It is the wish of the Cape Girardeau County Public Health Center to promote local business, while ensuring safe food handling practices for vendors operating in the market.

Farmer's Market Vendor Permit

Fee: $60

Until such time that provisions can be made to the Cape Girardeau County Food Code, vendors wishing to provide food that requires an inspection and/or Food & Beverage Permit, may purchase a Farmer’s Market Vendor Permit. This permit will allow a vendor to operate at any of the Farmer’s Markets in Cape Girardeau County without having to purchase an additional permit. Participation will be limited to Farmer’s Markets and Farmer Market-like events and will not be valid outside this type of venue.

The following guidelines apply for selling food products.

No Food & Beverage Permit Necessary

  • Whole, uncut fruits and vegetables (excluding sprouts of any variety)
  • Nuts in the shell
  • Prepackaged, Non Time-Temperature Control for Safety (Non-TCS) food

No Permit, but Labeling and Signage Required

  • Jams, jellies, and honey
  • Dry baked goods (cakes, cookies, brownies, fruit pies, etc.)
  • Spices/dry mixes/cracked nuts
  • Candies

No Permit, but Verification of Approved Source/License

  • Jerky USDA/MDA inspected
  • Commercially processed acidified foods to include salsa, relish, BBQ sauce, pickles, etc.
  • Commercially processed dairy products - regulated by the Milk Board

Sale Prohibited at Retail/Farmers Market

  • Home canned food items to include fruits/vegetables, salsa, relish, BBQ sauce, pickles, etc.
  • Baked goods prepared in home kitchen that require temperature control (includes but is not limited to: custards, cream or meringue pies, and cheesecake)
  • Raw milk/cream/dairy (unpasteurized)1
  • Eggs from unlicensed source
  • Meat, including wild game and custom exempt processed meats from unapproved source
  • Sprouts from an unapproved source

Permit/Inspection Required

  • Preparing or cooking food onsite
  • Custards, cream and meringue pies
  • Fish cut into pieces
  • Meat that is further processed/cut/repackaged after purchase from approved source
  • Sampling of Time Temperature Control for Safety (TCS) food
  • Whole (intact or gutted) fish caught in local waters
  • Frozen meat from inspected/permitted source
  • Eggs from licensed source
  • Wild game - commercially raised and USDA/MDA inspected

Permit/Inspection/Approved Source/HAACP Required2

  • Food requiring special processes
    • Reduced oxygen packaging
    • Vacuum packaging
    • Modified air packaging
    • Controlled atmosphere packaging
    • Sous vide
    • Cook-chill
  • Smoking (for preservation)
  • Curing
  • Use of additives to render a food item Non-PHF
  • Sprouts
  • Shellfish
  • Seafood tank
  • Juices
  • Other

1Dairy products in the retail setting must be Grade A pasteurized.
2Items require a variance and state approval from Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and/or the Cape Girardeau County Public Health Center.

Other Guidelines

Packaging and Labeling

Any packaged food sold at a farmer's market that includes more than two ingredients, including both ready-to-eat and processed food, should have a label.

The label must provide the following:

  • The common name for the food product
  • A list of ingredients if there are more than two, given in descending order of predominance by weight
  • Quantity specifications, given in weight, volume, or pieces
  • The name and complete address of the business or individual

Health claims should be avoided on packaging. Claims such as “heart healthy,” “light or low fat,” or “sugar free” must be substantiated by the nutritional facts on the label. It is acceptable, however, to claim added or left out ingredients, such as including “no sugar added” on the label.

Protective Coverings for Vendor Booths

All food offered at a Farmer’s Market must be protected from contaminants such as rain, dirt, pests, and chemicals. This includes overhead protection, as well as keeping food up off the ground and stored away from chemicals.  

Air curtains, screening, or fans must be provided and used for insect control when applicable.

Hand Washing Facilities

Hand washing is the best way to prevent the spread of disease. Products such as hand sanitizers should not be used as a replacement for hand washing, but may be used as a supplement.

Hand washing stations require hot potable running water, hand soap, disposable towels, and a waste container. Vendors must wash their hands for at least 20 seconds. The facility must be accessible to all vendors at all times.


Dishwashing must be available to wash rinse and sanitize multi-use utensils, dishware, and equipment used for food preparation at the site. Proper chemical sanitizer and the appropriate chemical test kit must be provided and used at each site. All dishes and utensils must be air dried.

General Practices

Bare hand contact with ready-to-eat foods is prohibited. Ready-to-eat means that no further washing, cooking, or additional preparation will take place before the food is consumed. If open food will be handled, proper utensils (such as tongs, spoons, or deli tissues) or single-use gloves must be used.

No smoking, eating, or drinking is allowed in the food preparation or service areas.

If you have any questions, please contact us. The following are the best sources for answers about applicable requirements for farmer's market vendors:

Cape Girardeau County Public Health Center - Environmental Services
(573) 335-7846

Missouri Department of Agriculture
(573) 751-4211
Eggs - (573) 751-5639
State Milk Board - (573) 751-3830

Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services
(573) 751-6400