Inspecting food establishments is one of the important responsibilities of the Snohomish
Health District. Routine inspections help assure the public will receive safe food
and beverages. We also follow up on complaints
when people have concerns about the food safety or sanitation at a permitted facility.
Learn more about restaurant ownership, permits and advanced planning on our
Permits & Plans
page. Most restaurant workers must be trained in safe food
handling. See our Classes
The number of inspections each year for a restaurant depends on whether its food preparation process is
considered low risk, medium risk or high risk. Once completed inspection reports
available for public viewing on the Health District website. Although infrequent, the Food Program may
close a food establishment for lack of compliance with food safety requirements to protect public health. A list
of these closures
is provided on this page.
Keep your family and guests safe during your next big event by making sure you
hire a licensed caterer if needed. Food that is not properly prepared, transported
and served can lead to food poisoning - an unhappy ending to any special event.
Caterers Licensed in Snohomish County
- Licensed caterers prepare food in an approved kitchen.
- Catering staff are trained to handle food safely and are aware of safe food handling practices.
- Though many restaurants do catering, a special endorsement on their main food permit is required.
To protect the health of the public, the Snohomish Health District Food Program
orders a restaurant to close only when the facility violates certain health and
food safety practices. These types of violations, called critical item violations,
are the ones that health inspectors look for most when inspecting food service establishments.
Recent Restaurant Closures
There are no current food establishment closures at this time.
A restaurant closed due to serious violations of the food code is never allowed to reopen
on the same day it was closed, and may reopen only when reinspection confirms that all the
violations leading to the closure have been corrected.
Restaurant closure can occur only when:
- An immediate health hazard exists, such as loss of electricity, a sewer backup,
a lack of running water, structural damage, or when a communicable disease in food
workers in the facility is confirmed which might cause a serious public health hazard.
- Ongoing, severe and repeat violations warrant enforcement action after an effort
has been made to achieve voluntary compliance.
- Excessive hazard points occur following an office conference. This happens if violation
points exceed 100 total or 75 critical item points.
- The owner/operator fails to inspect, maintain and operate an on-site sewage disposal
system in accordance with WAC 246-272-15501(4).
- A valid food establishment permit does not exist.
Snohomish Health District inspections ensure proper food handling, cleaning and
safety at more than 3,000 permanent restaurants, groceries and other food
establishments,1,000 temporary food booths, and 200 school kitchens. A health
district inspector looks at every aspect of the establishment, literally from
the ceiling to the floor.
Inspectors look for compliance in two categories, critical and non- critical
violations. Critical items have the greatest potential to cause illness or harm
to the public. Examples of critical items
include food worker training current for all workers, proper hand washing facilities,
raw meats stored below or away from ready to eat foods, and proper food cooling and
hot holding procedures.
On-Line Restaurant Inspection Reports
Snohomish Health District restaurant inspection reports have been online for many
A Typical Inspection
To get a better understanding of what actually happens during an inspection, we
will take you step by step through a typical restaurant inspection. Before we begin,
here is the equipment the inspector will be using for the inspection:
- The restaurant's file
- Inspection report sheets
- A white lab coat
- Thermocouple (probe thermometer) with alcohol wipes
- Digital Thermometer (as a back-up to the thermocouple)
- PH test strips
- Chlorine test strips
- Quat (a type of sanitizer) test strips
- A flash light (to look in dark crevices)
- Food establishment/Food worker hand-outs
The Inspection Step by Step Process
- The inspector walks into the establishment and introduces himself or herself to
the manager or PIC (person in charge.)
- On into the kitchen, the inspector will set his or her belongings down, put on their
white lab coat and gather their equipment (from list above.)
- Next, the inspector will find the hand sink and thoroughly wash his or her hands;
we must always set a good example.
- The inspector may now begin. He or she may take some time to look at the overall
layout and work flow of the kitchen. Observation is a key part in inspecting.
- On to the receiving area and dry food storage. Always be sure to look for any rodent
or insect activity.
Note: Dry goods should be placed properly on shelves
as to avoid any contamination by rodents.
- Next is the refrigerator. Most large restaurants have walk-in refrigerators. The
inspector will look to make sure that no raw meat products are above any produce
or ready to eat foods (RTE.) Also, the inspector will use the thermocouple to take
temperatures of various food items, and the overall temperature of the refrigerator.
Note: Always look for properly labeled containers/food
items explaining what is in them and what date they will be discarded.
The inspector will be sure to observe what types of pans the restaurant is cooling
leftover food in and their overall procedure for cooling.
Note: Proper cooling procedure is to place the food
item in a two inch depth pan, place in refrigerator uncovered. Check food item temperature
with a thermometer to verify it has reached 41°F or less and then put cover on.
- After the refrigerator, the inspector will move onto the freezer. Here items should
be contained properly and the temperature should approximately be 10°F.
- If the restaurant has a specified food preparation area, the inspector will observe
to make sure there is no cross-contamination happening, also that designated sinks
(vegetable prep) are being used only for that purpose. Watching also for frequent
hand washing and glove use is critical.
- Moving onto the cooking area, the inspector will begin to take temperatures of hot-holding
items and/or cold holding items if applicable to the establishment. Hot holding
items may include soups or types of meats. Cold holding may be a type of sandwich
bar with different deli meats and cheeses or cooked meats, which are refrigerated
and stored until ready to use. In the cooking area, the inspector may take temperatures
of cooking foods, perhaps hamburgers or pieces of chicken. After taking temperatures,
the inspector again will observe the workflow of the cooking area, being sure to
watch for no bare-hand contact on ready to eat foods and proper hand washing.
Note: Temperatures for hot holding are above 140°F,
temperatures for cold holding are below 41°F.
- After taking temperatures, the inspector will move to the dishwashing area. Restaurants
are able to have a dishwasher or a three-compartment sink, which has designated
areas for washing, rinsing, and sanitizing. If the establishment has a dishwasher,
the inspector will run the dishwasher through one cycle and test the water with
one of the sanitizing strips to see if the dishwasher is working properly. If the
restaurant does not have a dishwasher, only a three-compartment sink, the inspector
will verify the restaurant is using the sink properly. The inspector may also test
the sanitize buckets; these buckets are used to wipe down equipment, and tables
in the seating area.
- The last areas to check are the restrooms and the garbage area. Each restroom (men
and women's) should have hot water, cold water, soap and paper towels. The garbage
or dumpster should not be leaking and have a tight fighting lid. The area around
it should be rather clean with no excessive amounts of food or other garbage on
- Finally, the inspector will head back inside to write up the inspection report.
Before writing the report, the inspector will ask for a menu. The purpose is to
make sure the restaurant has a "consumer advisory" if needed.
Note: A "consumer advisory" is required for establishments
that serve foods (i.e. meat, eggs) raw or undercooked at the customer's request.
After thoroughly reviewing the menu the inspector will complete the inspection report
being sure to write any violations, problems, or comments needed. This is also for
the operator's advantage to see exactly what areas they need to improve. The inspector
may give the operator handouts to help with making corrections, and if needed schedule
a follow-up inspection. Snohomish Health District believes in educating the community
and thus works with operators to create a safer food establishment for the public.
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