OLR Research Report

December 2, 2008




By: Kevin E. McCarthy, Principal Analyst

You asked for a description of statutes and regulations that apply to operators of food vending machines.


A Department of Public Health (DPH) regulation and Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) statute apply specifically to food or beverage vending machine operations. The DPH regulation, (Conn. Agencies Regs. 19-13-B52), which is part of the Public Health Code, is available at www.ct.gov/dph/lib/dph/public_health_code/. The statute (CGS 21a-34 et seq.) is available online at http://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/menu/Statutes.asp.

Among other things, the DPH regulation has requirements for (1) the operators of the machines; (2) the vending machines themselves; and (3) the food or beverages they vend, with specific requirements for machines that vend milk or “potentially hazardous products” such as those that contain meat or eggs. Many of these requirements apply to food establishments generally, e.g., requirements that hot products be kept hot and cold products be kept cold and that machines be kept clean and free from insects and rodents.

The DCP statutes require vending machines operators to obtain a license from the department. The DCP commissioner may suspend or revoke a license for violation of the laws regarding vending machines or applicable municipal health ordinances or state or federal law. If the operator stores food or beverages at a commissary (warehouse) where, it is additionally subject to DCP's sanitary regulations for food establishments (Conn. Agencies Regs. 21a-101-1 et seq.).

The DCP statutes' requirements regarding vending machines and their operations are similar to those imposed by the DPH regulations. There are minor differences with regard to the temperature at which certain food and beverages must be kept. In addition, the statutes include additional provisions regarding inspections and ensuring the health status of vending machine employees. Anyone who violates the DCP statutes is subject to a fine of up to $500, six months imprisonment, or both.

In addition to these specific requirements, vending machine operators are subject to a variety of generally applicable laws, e.g., requirements for filing sales tax returns with the Department of Revenue Services.


Requirements for Operators

No person or firm may operate vending machines without obtaining the permits or licenses that are required by local ordinances. The operator must notify the local health director of the operator's name and business address and the location of the machines. These requirements do not apply to operators of machines that only vend beverages, other than milk or milk products, in sealed cans or bottles.

The operator must give the health director or his or her representatives access to the interior of all of its vending machines the operator operates. (An operator's employee can accompany the health official). The operator must promptly comply with the health director's request for such access or inspection. When ordered by a health director, the operator must remove a vending machine that fails to meet the regulation's requirements. Violation of the Public Code are subject to a fine of $100, imprisonment for up to three months, or both.

Requirements for Vending Machines

Vending machines must be in a well-lit room, area, or space that can be kept clean and is protected from overhead leakage from drains and piping or other contamination. Each machine must be located so that (1) the space around and under it can be readily cleaned and (2) there is no place for insects and rodents to nest.

The floor where the machines are located must be kept in good repair, reasonably smooth, and constructed so that it can be cleaned and capable of withstanding repeated washing and scrubbing. This space and the immediate surroundings of each vending machine must be kept clean.

The machine's exterior must facilitate cleaning, minimize the entrance of insects and rodents, and be kept clean. Electric and other service connections must be designed to protect against unintended or accidental interruption of service to the machine. All interior surface and component parts of the machine must be designed and constructed to permit easy cleaning and must be kept clean. All surfaces of the machine that come in contact with food or beverages must use materials that are smooth, nontoxic, corrosion resistant, and relatively nonabsorbent. The surfaces and parts must be capable of withstanding repeated cleaning and sanitizing treatment by normal procedures. The surfaces must be protected against contamination.

A clearly identifiable plate or tag indicating the name and address of the person or firm responsible for servicing the machine must be attached in a conspicuous place to all vending machines.

In the case of vending machines that dispense soda or other carbonated beverages that are connected to a water supply system, the surfaces that contact water must be made of materials that preclude the production of toxic substances that might result from interaction with carbon dioxide or carbonated water. These surfaces cannot be made of materials such as copper, lead, zinc, or cadmium.

Food and Beverages in the Vending Machines

All foods and beverages offered for sale through vending machines must be manufactured, processed, and prepared in establishments that comply with all applicable local, state, and federal laws and regulations. They must be wholesome and free from spoilage, contamination, and adulteration. All packaged foods or beverages must be labeled in compliance with the federal Uniform Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.

Requirements for “Potentially Hazardous” Products

There are additional requirements for the sale of “potentially hazardous” food or drink (e.g., milk and products that contain milk, meat, fish, eggs, or poultry). These products must be dispensed (1) in the individual original container or wrapper into which it was placed at the manufacturing, processing, or distribution plant or (2) into single service containers. Depending on the nature of the products, they must be kept at temperature of 45 degrees F., or below or 140 degrees F. or above. The food service compartment must have a thermometer that is accurate within 2 degrees F. The products must also be kept at these temperatures while in transit.

The vending machines must have controls that insure these temperatures are maintained at all times. This requirement does not apply (1) while the machine is being filled or serviced the machine and up to 30 minutes afterwards and (2) for the period needed to heat refrigerated foods that are served hot. The controls must place the machine out of service if a power failure or other condition allows the food storage compartment temperature to go outside of the temperature limits. If a machine has been shut down for more than two hours or the food has been damaged by a change of temperature following a shut-down, the food must be removed from the machine and discarded.

All multi-use containers or parts of vending machines that come into direct contact with potentially hazardous products must be removed from the machine daily. The parts must be thoroughly cleaned and subjected to an approved sanitizing process at the production or distribution plant or other approved facility. But the requirement for daily cleaning and sanitizing treatment may be waived for those contact surfaces which are kept at 45 F. or below or 140 degrees F. or above at all times. All parts must be protected from contamination after cleaning and sanitizing. There are separate requirements for the parts of bulk milk vending machines that come into contact with milk.

Sales of Milk

Milk and fluid milk products sold in vending machines must be dispensed in individual, original containers or from bulk containers into which they were placed at the milk plant. For vending machines that use fluid milk products as an ingredient in hot liquid foods or beverages (such as cocoa), the milk product may be transferred where the machine is located from the individual, original container of up to one-half gallon capacity to a vending machine bulk container which is clean and has been subjected to an approved sanitizing process, so long as the entire contents of the individual, original container are used.

The parts of bulk milk vending machines that come into direct contact with the milk or milk product (other than dispensing tubes that meet certain conditions) must be cleaned and sanitized at the milk plant. The can or other bulk milk container may be filled only at the milk plant and must be sealed with two seals in order to make it impossible to withdraw any part of its contents without breaking one seal and make it impractical to introduce any substance without breaking the other seal. The delivery tube and any parts of the dispensing device that contact milk must be attached at the milk plant and be protected by a moisture-proof covering or housed in a compartment with a moisture-tight closure. The closure may not be removed until after the container is placed in the refrigerated compartment of the vending machine.

Vending Machine Employees

Vending machine employees must keep their hands clean and wear clean outer garments while handling foods or beverages or product contact surfaces of utensils or equipment. Employees must wash their hand before resuming work after using the bathroom.


Licensure Application and Review

Any person seeking a vending machine operator's license must apply to DCP. The application must state:

1. the applicant's name and address or the name and address of each partner (for partnerships) or each principal officer and director (for corporations);

2. the address of the applicant's principal place of business;

3. the location of each commissary and other establishment, if any, where supplies are kept and where food or beverages are prepared;

4. the identity and form of the food or beverage to be sold or offered;

5. the number and type of each vending machine which the applicant operates, replenishes, or services;

6. a description of each vehicle the applicant uses to transport products from a commissary to vending machines; and

7. other information the DCP commissioner requires.

The commissioner must investigate the applicant's commissary, servicing, and transport facilities. Upon determining that the applicant meets state and federal requirements and applicable municipal health ordinances, the commissioner must issue the license. The license must be renewed annually.

The license fee varies with the number of vending machines. The license fee is $20 for an operator with one to three machines, $50 for an operator with four to 50 machines, and $100 for operators with 51 to 100 machines. For operators with more than 100 machines, the fee is $100 for each 100 machines or fraction thereof. The fee does not apply to operators that are governmental agencies or religious groups. The commissioner may exempt certain operators from the fee upon finding that the application of the fee to any such group, association or organization would not materially aid in its administration and that the exception would not be inimical to public health and safety. This provision applies youth athletic groups, including those sponsored by the state or local police, and charitable organizations.

Regulation of Vending Machines and Their Operation

Vending machines must be located in a way to minimize the risk of product contamination. They must be easy to clean and be kept clean. The machine's exterior must be constructed in a way that facilitates cleaning, minimizes entry by insects and rodents, and must be kept clean. Service connections must be designed to protect against unintended or accidental interruption of service to the machine.

All interior surfaces and component parts of the machine must be designed and built to permit easy cleaning and be kept clean. All surfaces that come in contact with products must be made of materials that are smooth, nontoxic, corrosion-resistant, and relatively nonabsorbent. The surfaces must be capable of withstanding repeated cleaning and bactericidal treatment by normal procedures. The surfaces and all equipment must be protected against contamination.

Water used in vending machines must be from an approved source and be safe and sanitary. All wastes must be properly disposed of and until then be kept in suitable containers to prevent creating a nuisance.

Foods; beverages; and ingredients; and surfaces of containers, equipment, and supplies that come in contact with products must be protected from contamination while in transit to the machine location. Readily perishable foods and beverages must be kept at at or below 50 degrees F. or at or above 150 degrees F.

The law bars anyone from (1) selling any food, beverage, or ingredient that is adulterated or misbranded or (2) having such products in his or her possession with the intent of selling it from a vending machine.

Food, beverages, or ingredients sold or offered or exhibited for sale in a vending machine must come from sources that comply with municipal health ordinances and applicable state and federal laws and regulations. The products must be clean and wholesome and free from spoilage. They must be prepared, handled, and stored to protect them from contamination and adulteration. Products from out-of-state commissaries may be sold in Connecticut if the commissaries conform to the provisions of Connecticut's food establishment sanitation regulations or substantially equivalent provisions.


The commissioner must regularly inspect all commissaries and storage, service, and transport facilities that handle readily perishable food. He must inspect commissaries and facilities that handle nonperishable food at least once every six months.

After proper identification, any DCP inspector may enter any public or private premises where any commissary, storage, service, or transport facility or vending machine is located. The inspector may conduct the inspection at any reasonable time during regular business hours. The owner or person who possesses each vending machine must give the inspectors free access to the machine's interior in order to inspect them.

The commissioner can have any product sampled and examined as often as needed to determine that there has been no adulteration or misbranding. Upon written notice to the operator the commissioner may impound and forbid the sale of any food or beverage that is adulterated or misbranded. After holding a hearing, the commissioner may cause any the food or beverage to be destroyed. In the case of misbranding that can be corrected by proper labeling, the commissioner may release the food or beverage to the operator once the label is corrected.


Employees must keep their hands clean and wear clean outer garments while handling foods or beverages or surfaces of utensils or equipment that come into contact with the products.

No employee who has or carries a communicable disease may work in a commissary or vending machine operation in any capacity that brings him or her into contact with the production, handling, storage, or transportation of foods, beverages, ingredients, or equipment used in vending machine operations. No operator may employ a person or anyone suspected of having or carrying communicable diseases in any such capacity. Any employee who has a discharging or infected wound or a sore or lesion on his or her hands, arms or any exposed portion of the body must be excluded from operations that will bring him or her into contact with foods, beverages, utensils, or equipment used in vending machine operations. If a communicable disease occurs among the employees or the operator suspects that any employee has contracted or become a carrier of a communicable disease, the operator must notify the commissioner immediately.

If the commissioner suspects that the possibility of transmission of infection from an employee, the commissioner may take the following measures: (1) the immediate exclusion of the employee from all commissaries and vending machine operations; (2) the immediate closing of the commissaries and operations concerned until the commissioner determines that there is no further danger of disease outbreak; or (3) requiring medical examinations of the employee and his or her associates, with laboratory examinations as may be indicated.

License Suspension or Revocation

The commissioner may suspend or revoke a license for violation of the laws regarding vending machines or applicable municipal health ordinance or state or federal law. The commissioner must notify the licensee and hold a hearing before taking these steps. The notice must state: (1) the condition or violation found; (2) the corrective action, if any, to be taken and the period of time within which to do so, and (3) that an opportunity for hearing will be provided upon written request filed within 10 days after receipt of the notice.

If the commissioner finds any grossly unsanitary condition or any other condition which constitutes a substantial hazard to public health or safety involving the preparation or transportation of any food or beverage or the use of a vending machine, the commissioner may issue an order to the licensee without notice or hearing. The order must cite the existence of the condition and specify the corrective action to be taken. The commissioner can require the facility or machine be discontinued if he considers this necessary. The licensee is entitled to a hearing on request, but this does not stay the order. The order continues in effect until the commissioner rescinds it or the condition is corrected.

The commissioner must have a seal or other appropriate marking on every machine supplied by a person whose license has been suspended or revoked and on every machine whose use is prohibited.