Selling Food on a Market Stall

Top-Ten Key Points for Selling Food on a Market Stall

Selling food at a market stall.

Summary of Contents

  1. Local Authority Licence
  2. ?Understanding and controlling food safety hazards  
  3. Food labelling
  4. Refrigerating food  
  5. Temperatures for cold food storage
  6. Temperatures for hot food storage  
  7. Equipment cleanliness and hygiene
  8. Personal hygiene and safety
  9. Tasters and free samples
  10. Illness


Selling food on a market stall is a great way to be your own boss and to develop a business with relatively low overheads and running costs. The increasing number of farmers' markets and the popularity of 'artisan' or 'craft' foods has led many budding entrepreneurs to consider creating their own homemade food-based products. Additionally, recent COVID-19 lockdowns have changed the shopping habits of many. Recent research from Deloitte found that 59% of British consumers have bought from local stores and services more regularly during lockdowns. However, one of the biggest and costliest mistakes made by many who are new to selling food from a market stall is not realising that there is a huge number of regulations specifically relevant to such an enterprise, from licences to all aspects of food safety and food hygiene. Simply because you are producing food products at home does not exclude you from food preparation, storage and hygiene laws. 

Food hygiene and the 'long arm of the law'

It is important to realise that food safety laws are exactly the same for a high-class three-Michelin-starred restaurant to a market stall selling bangers and mash with onion gravy. All laws relating to food safety come under the Food Safety Act 1990, and to give you a clear idea of just how seriously food hygiene and safety is taken in the UK, the following is a breakdown of the fines and penalties that can and will be imposed if you breach any of the regulations:

  • The courts decide the level of penalties depending on the circumstances of each case, but the Act sets the maximum penalties available to the courts.
  • For offences in England and Wales (other than obstruction and related offences), Crown courts may send offenders to prison for up to two years and/or impose unlimited fines.
  • Magistrates' courts may impose a fine of up to £5,000 per offence and/or a prison sentence of up to six months.
  • For offences under sections 7 and 14 of the Act, the maximum fine a magistrates' court may set for each offence is £20,000. There are also penalties for obstructing an authorised officer.
  • In Scotland, the Sheriff court has a maximum sentence of 12 months, and there is a statutory maximum fine of £10,000.

Below we have highlighted ten of the most important facts concerning licences, food safety and food hygiene that you need to be aware of before considering selling food on a market stall. You should also be aware that this is not the complete list of regulations that need to be adhered to, but they will give you a clear indication of just how careful you need to be when selling 'homemade' food...

Local Authority Licence   

While there was a time when you could book a pitch and just turn up at a market with your produce, that is no longer the case. If it is going to be a one-off exercise at a village fete, then you won't need a licence. You will need to obtain a licence from your local authority to operate a food manufacturing business. In addition, you will need to register with your local authority if you intend to regularly sell food products at a market stall. If you are unsure which your local authority is, you can use the postcode checker on the principal government website here.

Beyond a local authority license, you will also need to prove that you have a good understanding of food safety and your responsibilities concerning food preparation and retail sales. The easiest way to do this is to obtain a Level 2 Food Safety and Hygiene certificate, such as the one available through Commodious, once you have completed three hours of online training. If you have any concerns about ensuring you meet all the necessary requirements to enable you to sell food at a market stall, it is a smart move to make contact with your local Environmental Health Officer (EHO) for guidance.

You must register as a food business at least 28 days before trading. If you are already trading and haven’t registered, you must do this immediately. If you are running a food business without the proper registration, you could be subject to a fine or face up to two years in prison. This is how seriously the law takes rules and regulations surrounding food safety and hygiene.

Understanding and controlling food safety hazards  

There is a great deal to know and understand when it comes to food safety and hygiene where market stalls are concerned. There are four principal types of hazards you need to concentrate on. These are: 

  • Microbial hazards
  • Chemical hazards
  • Physical hazards
  • Allergenic hazards

Consequently, it is imperative you establish a food safety management system to control any food hazards within your business that may exist. To ensure the maximum efficiency of any management system, it should be based on HACCP procedures. HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point, and it is a way to manage food safety hazards by adopting the following seven principles:

  1. Conduct a Hazard Analysis
  2. Identify Critical Control Points
  3. Establish Critical Limits
  4. Establish Corrective Actions
  5. Establish Verification Procedures
  6. Establish Record Keeping Procedures

To learn more about HACCP, why not check out the Commodious HACCP Principles Training Course here.

While not something too many stallholders need to be worried about, VACCP and TACCP are two additional food safety factors that need to be considered. These two acronyms stand for Vulnerability Assessment and Critical Control Points and Threat Assessment and Critical Control Points, respectively. In a nutshell, these two assessments are concerned with the deliberate 'contamination' of food products within the supply chain, often referred to as food fraud. For example, while the packaging for beefburgers being sold by four UK supermarkets indicated that the 'meat element' was beef, in reality, the meat used to make the burgers were contaminated with up to 29% horsemeat, and pig meat was also found in them. 

In summary, HACCP focuses on accidental food contamination, while VACCP and TACCP focus on the deliberate contamination of food products. Further helpful information can be found in the Commodious training course for Understanding VACCP and TACCP. 


Food labelling

In October 2021, Natasha's Law came into force. The law was introduced as the consequence of the tragic death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who died after eating a baguette purchased from Pret a Manger. Within the baguette were sesame seeds, which Natasha was highly allergic to, and shortly after eating the baguette, she went into anaphylactic shock, which she did not recover from. Natasha's Law has made it compulsory for food manufacturers who package food before it is sold to the public to not only list all the ingredients contained within the food, but also clearly label any of the 14 most prominent food allergens, including:

  • Celery
  • Cereals containing gluten (such as barley and oats) 
  • Crustaceans (such as prawns, crabs and lobsters) 
  • Eggs 
  • Fish 
  • Lupin 
  • Milk 
  • Molluscs (such as mussels and oysters) 
  • Mustard 
  • Peanuts 
  • Sesame (seeds, oil, etc.) 
  • Soybeans 
  • Sulphur dioxide and sulphites (if the sulphur dioxide and sulphites are at a concentration of more than ten parts per million) 
  • Tree nuts (such as almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios and macadamia nuts)

It should be noted that the above applies to pre-packaged food (prepared and packaged away from your market stall) and does not apply to food that is prepared on-site as per a customer's order, and then packaged for takeaway purposes. Suppose you prepare and sell food to order on-site. In that case, it is imperative that clearly displayed you have a list of all the ingredients used in the products you are selling, and that any allergens contained within your food are also clearly displayed on a notice that customers can easily see. Additionally, with any of the ingredients you use in a recipe or product, it is your responsibility to ensure that those ingredients have also been checked for the presence of allergens. 


You will find our 'Knowledge Bank' article on Food Allergens extremely useful. It also includes links to our training courses for Food Allergy Awareness and Food Allergens in Manufacturing.

Refrigerating food  

Whether it is a question of the storage of ingredients prior to making what you intend to sell on your market stall, or it is the storage of the products you intend to sell on the stall itself, where food is concerned, considerable attention has to be paid. Storage doesn't just relate to the containers you put food in or the packaging it is wrapped in. Storage also includes the environment in which products and ingredients are kept, especially if they are fresh.

One of the most critical sections of food storage is the refrigerator, and there are three areas of particular concern where careful attention needs to be paid. First you must consider where the refrigerated food should be stored in he refrigerator. Secondly you must consider the temperature that the food should be stored at, and thirdly, you must be sure to adopt the First In First Out (FIFO) principle to ensure that new food placed in the refrigerator is placed behind existing food, to avoid accidental storage of food beyond its shelf life.

There is an excellent article in the Commodious Knowledge Bank on the topic of Good Refrigerated Food Storage Practices that is easy to understand and good informative reading.

When it comes to food storage in a refrigerator, the general three-tier should be observed.

  • Top shelves – pre-cooked food stored in airtight containers to avoid cross-contamination
  • Lower shelves – raw produce such as meat and fish, once again stored in airtight containers to avoid cross-contamination
  • Bottom drawers – raw vegetables and salad leaves

          The reason for the order of storage is that if any container leaks and this is not noticed at the time, any juices from cooked food will not be dangerous to the uncooked meat and fish below as that still has to be cooked and that cooking process should kill any unwanted bacteria. As the drawers are 'separate' from the lower shelves, these products will not become contaminated by any juices that may escape from the containers of raw meat and fish above. It should be noted that all containers should also be dated with the date when the food was put in the container.

Temperatures for cold food storage  

The temperature at which food is stored is critical not just for preserving the freshness of the food, but also for reducing the rate of any potentially harmful bacterial growth. 

  • Refrigerator settings - Food stored in a refrigerator should be kept at a temperature of 8oC or below. To ensure that this is achieved, the actual temperature of the refrigerator should be set at a maximum of 4oC. It should be noted that certain foods will not remain at the same temperature of the refrigerator and will often be a couple of degrees higher, which is why you need to set the refrigerator's temperature at 4oC. It is important to remember that if you are putting cooked food in a refrigerator, it should be allowed to cool down to room temperature first, as otherwise, it could raise the internal temperature of the products already in the refrigerator above 8oC.
  • Freezer settings – Your freezer should be set at a minimum of -18oC as it is at this temperature that bacterial growth is not possible. Food products stored in a freezer should be in either a sealed freezer-appropriate container or a freezer-suitable bag. Produce exposed to the air in a freezer can suffer from 'freezer burn', which will not cause any health risk but will lower the food quality.
  • Market stall temperature settings – It is essential to understand that while many of the rules for the safe storage of food in a refrigerator or freezer may seem applicable only to premises where food is stored or prepared before sale, those regulations also apply to certain high-risk foods that may be sold on a market stall. All chilled high-risk foods must be kept at 8°C or below at all times. The temperature of chilled high-risk foods should be monitored to ensure that the temperature throughout the food is at 8o C or below. Cool boxes need sufficient cool packs to ensure the food is kept at the correct temperature. Displaying food on ice is only satisfactory if you can prove or demonstrate that the temperature throughout the food displayed is at 8°C or below. There is an exception of one period of up to four hours, after which the food should be disposed of or kept refrigerated until sold within its safe life.

The Commodious Knowledge Bank includes an excellent article titled What temperature should food be stored at? that is highly recommended as a go-to reference article on the topic.

Temperatures for hot food storage 

While we have concentrated above on the storage of cold food, the storage of hot food that is intended for immediate consumption is equally important. This is because of what is referred to as the 'danger zone', a temperature range in which harmful bacteria are most likely to grow. This temperature range is between 8o C and 63oC. Consequently, cooked hot food that is served on a market stall, if not cooked to order, must be kept at a temperature above 63oC – examples would be soup, stew, etc.


It is important to note that there is a difference between the storage temperature of hot food and the cooking temperature of food sold on a stall. Food that is being cooked on a stall for public consumption must reach a temperature of 75o C, and if cooking meat, it must be carefully checked to ensure that any juices from the middle of the piece(s) of meat contain no blood, usually visible in the form of a pink tinge.

Equipment cleanliness and hygiene 

Everything you use on your market stall should be easy to keep clean. In addition, the stall itself should provide you and the produce you are selling adequate protection against sun, wind, and rain, so it should have front, rear and side flaps that can be rolled up or down, as required. For example, rainwater must not be allowed to run off the roof of your stall and get blown onto or into any food you are selling as the roof of the stall may, for example, have had bird droppings on it. Additionally, if you are cooking and selling food on your stall, or selling hot food:

  • Table surfaces should be easy to wipe clean and should be cleaned prior to placing any food or produce on them.
  • Any chopping boards should be colour coordinated if you are chopping fresh meat, vegetables, bread, etc. and must be made of both wipe-clean materials and cleaned each time after use.
  • You should have access to plenty of hot water.
  • During storage, display and selling of products, all food, whether to be cooked or which has been cooked or reheated on the market stall, must be adequately protected against pests and vermin, such as flies and rats.
  • All food waste must be stored, and it is your responsibility to remove it from the site of your market stall. Public waste bins cannot be used for the disposal of food waste.
  • While every precaution must be taken to keep all equipment and surfaces clean, it is important to pay as much attention to the compartment(s) in any vehicle where food and equipment will be stored during transit.

Personal hygiene and safety 

As well as ensuring all catering equipment and surfaces are kept hygienically clean, you must also pay particular attention to your personal hygiene. If cooking food from scratch, selling fresh produce such as meat or fish, or selling hot food prepared off-site, the following is good practice:

  • Wear latex gloves when handling raw food and change the gloves regularly, especially if handling different foodstuffs. 
  • Always wash your hands each time you change your gloves.
  • Use tongs, plastic forks or spoons to serve food rather than touching it with your fingers or hands.
  • Whether you have long or short hair, wear a hairnet or hat to control it and avoid hairs contaminating food.
  • Keep a basic first aid kit handy with brightly coloured plasters.
  • Wash your hands regularly, change the water used for hand washing regularly, and keep plenty of soap and hand sanitiser handy.

Tasters and free samples 

Giving away free samples and 'tasters' is a great way to promote your produce. The same storage rules apply to samples as to all other food. However, free samples must be presented to members of the public in such a way that samples cannot become contaminated by a potential customer. Small, individual portions in small cups with a small wooden spoon or cocktail stick are an ideal way to present free samples. While regulations dictate that any hot cooked food must be consumed within two hours of it being prepared, putting out free samples should present your food at its best, so free samples should not be left out for any great length of time.


If you have had any form of gastrointestinal illness or symptoms of food poisoning, you should refrain from touching any food products until you have been symptom-free for 48 hours. While it is acceptable to sell pre-wrapped food or food in containers, it is not a good idea to risk the health of customers, and it could be very bad for business.

We previously mentioned that you need to get in contact with your nearest local authority in order to register your intention to sell food products on a market stall. You can obtain either a temporary licence or a permanent one, depending on your plans. While the word 'authority' may seem offputting, you will find that they are extremely helpful and will assist you with every aspect of ensuring you stay within the letter of the law. Most local authorities produce guidelines for selling food from a market stall.

Here at Commodious we specialise in providing online courses that cover many aspects of Health & Safety at work. If you would like to learn more about any of these, please feel free to get in contact with us.



Further Reading