Public health agency for Snohomish County
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Restaurants
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 page.
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 are 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.
Licensed Catering
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.
  • 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.
Caterers Licensed in Snohomish County
Restaurant Closures
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. List of current Restaurant Closures:
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:
  1. 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.
  2. Ongoing, severe and repeat violations warrant enforcement action after an effort has been made to achieve voluntary compliance.
  3. Excessive hazard points occur following an office conference. This happens if violation points exceed 100 total or 75 critical item points.
  4. The owner/operator fails to inspect, maintain and operate an on-site sewage disposal system in accordance with WAC 246-272-15501(4).
  5. A valid food establishment permit does not exist.
Inspections
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 years.
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
  1. The inspector walks into the establishment and introduces himself or herself to the manager or PIC (person in charge.)
  2. 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.)
  3. Next, the inspector will find the hand sink and thoroughly wash his or her hands; we must always set a good example.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. After the refrigerator, the inspector will move onto the freezer. Here items should be contained properly and the temperature should approximately be 10°F.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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 the ground.
  12. 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.
Contact Info
Phone: 425.339.5250
Email: flequestions@shd.snohomish.wa.gov
Office Hours: Monday - Friday 8:00 am to 5:00 pm
Resources
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Last Reviewed and updated 5/13/2009