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Food Safety

Food Safety

Safe food begins at the source, continues through the retail chain to the kitchen, and must be maintained until it gets to your plate.  We work with food establishments—restaurants and stores, as well as the workers, and even with community members who may be volunteering to help serve food at an event.

We define a food establishment as

A place, operation, site, or facility where food is manufactured, prepared, processed, packaged, dispenses, distributed, sold, served, or offered to the public.

It does not matter whether the food is paid for or not, the exchange of food is what defines a food establishment. Each and every food establishment must have a permit—even if it is only temporary.

Prior to receiving a permit, the establishment is inspected by one of the environmental health team members to ensure the facilities, menu, and food handling procedures are compliant with safe food handling regulations. The initial inspection happens before the establishment opens, followed by a minimum of one inspection per year. The number of inspections depends on the food safety risk rating from their facility and menu. Our environmental health team uses the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point Principles and Process to evaluate all retail food establishments.

Anyone who will be serving food at a food establishment—whether an employee or volunteer—must have a food worker card prior to working with food. A 14-day grace period may be permissible if the establishment provides documentation that appropriate and adequate food safety training has been given to the serving team. A food worker care is required by day 14, or the person will not be able to handle food.

Food worker cards are valid for two years. Renewals will be valid for three years, if it is renewed prior to the card expiring. If the card expires, the new card will only be valid for two years. Food worker cards issues by a local health jurisdiction is valid anywhere in Washington state.

Online food worker cards are $10 and available at This is the only authorized online option. Any other online option will not be valid in Washington state.

A temporary food event permit is required when food will be served to the public, at a single location for a single event or celebration, and less than 21 days. The permit is required for any food or drink that is not shelf stable.  For more information on the requirements, the process, application, and exempt items, visit our Temporary Food Event Permit page.

Foodborne illnesses, most often called food poisoning but also known as foodborne disease or foodborne infection, are exceptionally common, but almost 100% preventable. A multitude of disease-causing microbes can contaminate food, in addition to cross contamination from outside chemicals or harmful substances. To learn more, visit our foodborne illnesses page.

If you experience bloody diarrhea, please seek immediate emergency medical attention.