Ready-To-Eat

Definition: Commercially prepared food designed for ease of consumption. Products designated as convenience or ready-to-eat foods are often prepared food that can be sold as hot, ready-to-eat dishes; as room-temperature, shelf-stable products; or as refrigerated or frozen products that require minimal preparation (typically just heating).

Food Safety: Proper food handling, food safety, and sanitation practices should be followed diligently for those offering ready-to-eat foods. Food handlers must wash their hands frequently; not just after using the restroom, eating, smoking, or touching the face or mouth. Food handling employees must wear gloves or use some other barrier so that bare hands do not directly contact the food. Suitable utensils such as deli paper, spatulas, tongs, and dispensing equipment must be used. Temperatures for hot holding and cold holding must be taken and recorded at regular intervals to assure the food is maintaining safe temperature. Please visit the Food Safety page for time and temperature information on proper cooking, holding, and storage temperatures for ready-to-eat food products.

These ready-to-eat foods have a high risk of causing foodborne illness. Some examples of ready-to-eat foods include:

  • Soft cheeses such as brie, feta, ricotta, blue-veined, and Mexican-style soft cheeses such as queso fresco (unless it is made with pasteurized milk)
  • Soft-serve ice cream
  • Hot dogs, luncheon meats, cold cuts
  • Pâtés/meat spreads – unless canned
  • Precooked chicken and other meats
  • Refrigerated smoked seafood products
  • Deli-type salads such as coleslaw, potato, macaroni, tuna, etc.
  • Pre-packed raw vegetables and mixed raw vegetable salad
  • Pre-cut fresh fruits and fruit salads

Distribution Method (Expand All | Collapse All)

You are selling your product at a farmers’ market, CSA, roadside stand, or other direct to consumer outlet


Licensing: If you are selling ready to eat food you will need a Retail Food Establishment License, issued by your county health department. If you sell at farmers’ markets or other direct to consumer outlets in different counties, you should check with the health department in each county where you sell your product direct to consumers. Vendors are subject to plan review fees, including menu submission. Vendors must provide a potable water system under pressure. The system must be of sufficient capacity to furnish adequate hot and cold water for food preparation, utensil cleaning, and sanitizing. All liquid waste must be stored in a retention tank that is at least 15 percent larger than the water supply tank. Liquid waste must be discharged from the retention tank to an approved sewage disposal system.

Vendors who handle, package, or prepare food for sale must have a conveniently located hand washing facility available for employee hand washing. This facility must be capable of providing an unassisted, continuous flow of warm water. The hand washing facility must be of adequate pressure and size to facilitate proper hand washing. Soap and individual paper towels must also be provided.

Vendors may be prohibited from selling some or all potentially hazardous foods for immediate consumption, unless they have a mobile unit or pushcart that is commercially designed and approved to handle food preparation and service. The equipment must be certified or classified

Labeling: No label is required.

Sales Tax Liability: General sales tax information.

Weights and Measures: If you choose to sell your product by weight, you must follow the Colorado weights and measures requirements. If you choose to sell your products by another method, they do not fall under regulations in this category.

You are selling your product to a store, restaurant, food cart, K-12 school, university, hospital, or other retail food establishment


Licensing: To sell ready to eat food that you have produced using products you have grown, you must first register with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) as a wholesale food manufacturing facility. Once you have registered your food manufacturing business, you may be inspected by CDPHE.  Some manufacturing processes require specific certification and/or training that must be completed before you can manufacture an acidified food or process seafood products. If you are interested in doing either of these, you should first contact the Division of Environmental Health and Sustainability at (303) 692-3620 for further information and visit their page on wholesale food program information and requirements.

Note that if you are selling at farmer’s market and as a wholesaler, you will need a to obtain a retail food establishment license and register as a wholesale food manufacturer.

Labeling: General labeling requirements.

Sales Tax Liability: General sales tax information.

Weights and Measures: If you are selling your product by weight, you must follow the Colorado weights and measures requirements. If you are selling your product by some other measure, there are no regulations in this category.

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