Public health agency for Snohomish County
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Food Safety
An estimated 48 million cases of foodborne illness occur each year in the U.S. The Snohomish Health District Food Safety Program helps ensure the safety of the food you eat – whether it is purchased at a grocery store, picked up at a restaurant, or from your favorite food booth at the fair.
Staff provides permits and annual inspections to more than 3,000 retail food establishments in Snohomish County, as well as 200 school kitchens and 1,070 temporary food booths. Food establishments that do catering require a special permit to ensure they can safely prepare and transport food for large events.
We also review plans and conduct pre-inspections for new and remodeled food establishments.
For tips on food safety at home, visit the US Department of Agriculture’s “Be Food Safe”
Contact Info
Snohomish Health District
Food Safety Program
Phone: 425.339.5250
Email: flequestions@snohd.org
If you believe you’ve become ill after eating in Snohomish County, please contact our Communicable Disease staff: 425.339.5278
If you are concerned about unsanitary or unsafe practices or conditions in a food establishment, please complete this complaint form. The Environmental Health division follows up on complaints to ensure that businesses are safely following the Food Code.
State Food Code changes
Washington is in the process of updating the state’s food service rule (WAC 246-215) to include provisions from the 2009 FDA Model Food Code. Changes take effect May 1, 2013. Until then, the current rules apply.
Please read the new rule language and talk to your food inspector if you have additional questions.
Danger Zone
In the outgoing rule, the Danger Zone is 41°-140°F.
The Danger Zone for hot holding of Potentially Hazardous Food will lower to 135°F – in other words, foods must be kept above that temperature to be safe.
The current cold holding temperature of 41°F remains the same.
Potentially Hazardous Foods
The revised rule adds cut leafy greens and cut tomatoes to the list of hazardous foods.
Potentially Hazardous Foods, need to be kept hot or cold for safety. Such foods includes meat, poultry, cooked starches, sliced melons, sprouts, fresh herb and garlic-in-oil mixtures, dairy products, and cooked produce.
As potentially hazardous foods, cut leafy greens and cut tomatoes will now need to be kept out of the Danger Zone (41-135°F).
The term “leafy greens” includes iceberg, romaine, leaf lettuce, butter lettuce, baby leaf, scarole, endive, spring mix, spinach, cabbage, kale, arugula and chard. “Cut leafy greens” means the leaves have been cut, shredded, sliced, chopped, or torn.
The term “leafy greens” does not include herbs such as cilantro or parsley. The term “cut” does not include removing and discarding the exterior leaves.
Egg Pooling
The outgoing rule does not allow breaking four or more eggs into menu items, other than baked goods and batters, that are served to multiple customers.
Eggs that are broken and mixed (such as for scrambled eggs) for multiple customers will be allowed to have four or more eggs as long as the eggs are cooked immediately and cooked to an elevated internal temperature of 155°F (or marked with a proper consumer advisory).
Washing Produce
The outgoing rule requires proper washing of produce; new rule clarifies use of running water.
Fresh fruits and vegetables will need to be rinsed in running water before being cut, peeled, or otherwise prepared for service. Sprouts and herbs are specified in the rule because current practice often does not include rinsing under water prior to service.
Produce that is soaked or crisped in water will also need to be rinsed after soaking.
Service Animals
The current rule does not limit service animals to dogs.
In food establishments, a service animal means a dog (or miniature horse) that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability, as specified in RCW 49.60.218.
Cottage Foods
Other than bake sales or certain food to be donated, the current rule has no allowance for producing food for the public in private home kitchens; the recent Cottage Food Law is incorporated into the new rule to allow small producers to use their home kitchens.
Oven-baked goods such as cakes, cookies, breads, pastries, and most pies; cereals, trail mixes, granola, nut mixes, jams, jellies, preserves, dry herbs, seasonings, and vinegars will be permitted and inspected by Washington State Department of Agriculture for small-scale retailers to produce in their home kitchen.
Employee Health
The outgoing rule does not include information about conditional or new employees or potential health exposures for workers in specific facilities.
In addition to restricting current employees with foodborne illnesses or symptoms from working with food, the person in charge (PIC) must ensure that conditional (new) employees are also restricted until they are free of the foodborne illness or symptoms.
Food employees who work in a facility that serves a HIGHLY SUSCEPTIBLE POPULATION (such as a nursing home or senior center) must report to the manager or supervisor (PIC) if they:
  • Are diagnosed with Norovirus or Salmonella;
  • Consumed or prepared food implicated in a confirmed disease outbreak;
  • Attended or worked in a setting with a confirmed disease outbreak;
  • Live in the same household as someone who works at or attended a setting implicated in an outbreak; or
  • Live in the same household or eaten food prepared by someone with E. coli, Shigella, Salmonella Typhi, hepatitis A, or jaundice.
Wild Mushrooms
The outgoing rule does not include provisions for serving or selling wild mushrooms.
Food establishments may serve or sell wild-harvested mushrooms as long as the mushrooms are from an approved list of species, the mushrooms are provided with documentation signed by the mushroom identifier, the records are maintained for 90 days, and the mushrooms are served cooked to 135°F or sold raw for home preparation, such as at farmers’ markets.
Note: This section does not apply to mushrooms grown, processed, or packaged by a licensed food processing plant.
Children’s Menus
The outgoing rule does not prohibit listing an undercooked hamburger or other menu item requiring a consumer advisory on the children’s menu.
Meats and food containing meat that are listed within a children’s menu section will not be allowed to be served undercooked.
Cook-Chill & Sous Vide
The revised rule adds requirements for cook-chill and sous vide.
Traditional cook-chill and sous vide preparations require sealing food in air-tight bags. This oxygen-reduced, anaerobic environment can promote the growth of bacteria such as Clostridium botulinum (which can cause botulism) and Listeria monocytogenes (which can cause listeriosis) that grow better when oxygen levels are low.
The proposed rule specifies the strict operating procedures and attention to precise temperature control and discarding practices the operator must maintain in order to prepare these menu items under an approved “Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points” (HACCP) plan.
Non-continuous Cooking
The outgoing rule does not discuss animal products that are partially cooked and then cooled prior to final cooking before service.
Food establishments that partially cook meat for final cooking later will be required to have written procedures, pre-approved by the local health district. The rule requires that the meat be heated for no more than 60 minutes initially and be properly cooled before it is finally cooked to 165°F before service.
Meats prepared using an interrupted cooking process, but do not meet the definition of grill marking (see below), would be required to be cooked to at least 165°F before service. They would NOT be allowed to be served undercooked, even with a consumer advisory.
Grill Marking
Washington State included an exception to the Non-continuous Cooking section of the rule to allow limited par-cooking under controlled circumstances.
Meats that are grill marked (seared for less than one minute per side) and held for finish cooking at a later time must be cooled immediately, marked or otherwise indicated that they require additional cooking and stored separately from ready-to-eat food.
Before service, grill marked meats must be heated to the proper internal cook temperature (unless a consumer advisory is posted) before service. They may not be cooled again for another service.
Pre-School Licensing
The outgoing rule does not include modifications for food service in pre-schools with limited facilities.
With several exceptions (such as babysitting, licensed childcare, parent/child programs), pre-schools are defined as programs that provide organized care and education for children below the age required for kindergarten entry and that operate for two or more days per week with no child enrolled on a regular basis for more than four hours per day.
The proposed addition to the rule will limit food menus and preparation steps if the physical facilities available at the pre-school are also limited.
Pre-schools that operate with expanded menus will be permitted as routine food establishments and required to comply with the entire food rule.
Resources
Washington’s Revised Food Code
Washington State Department of Health
Food Safety Rules
2009 FDA Model Food Code
Food and Drug Administration

Last Reviewed and updated 11/28/2012