Frequently Asked Questions
Who inspects restaurants, taverns, and grocery stores
and how often are they inspected?
Staff from the Environmental Health Section of the Health
Department inspect all retail food establishments. State
law requires the Health Department to inspect each food establishment
at least 1 time each year.
Who inspects processing plants and places that sell
The Washington State Department of Agriculture, The United
States Department of Agriculture or the Food and Drug Administration
inspect facilities that sell foods at the wholesale level.
If I have a complaint about a food establishment who can I
If the complaint involves a retail food establishment or a
food you purchased for your own use, contact
our office. If
you purchased the food for resale, you can contact our office
and we can help determine which other agency you need to
What should I do if I think a meal I ate made me sick?
If the severity of your illness concerns you, contact your
health care provider. They can help you with any necessary
treatment. In addition, please contact
our office to report
the illness. Depending on what we learn from talking to you,
we may help prevent other people from becoming ill. To learn
more about food-related illnesses, click
What is the best thing I can do to prevent food-borne
illness at home?
Should I prepare food for others when I am ill?
1. Do not prepare food for others when you are sick.
Wash your hands thoroughly before you begin to prepare
foods or eat foods. Wet hands. Use plenty of soap. Lather for
at least 20 seconds (Sing “Happy Birthday” twice).
Rinse hands. Dry hands.
3. Avoid bare hand contact on ready-to-eat (RTE) foods.
4. Keep food at a safe temperature.
Ill foodworkers frequently make others sick by preparing
food. If at all possible, avoid preparing food for other people
when you do not feel well.
Who needs to get a food worker card?
Any person who works in a grocery store, restaurant,
school cafeteria, camp kitchen, deli, tavern or other retail
food establishment and handles unwrapped food products. For more
Do I need a permit to operate a restaurant, grocery
store, tavern or similar facility?
Yes, you do need a permit. For more information, visit
Owners web page. You will need to apply for
a permit, submit a floor plan and menu information, and pay
a yearly permit fee. After receiving a permit, Health Department
Staff will inspect the facility to ensure safe food handling
I just bought a food establishment business, what permits
do I need from the Health Department?
You will need to complete a Change
of Ownership Packet and obtain a food establishment permit through our office. You
may return completed paperwork to our office and pay the
associated fees. Contact
our office to determine the cost.
Next, you may schedule an inspection with a Health Department
inspector. Inspectors need a few days notice, in order to
schedule the appointment. To learn more about this process,
visit our Business
Owners web page.
I am planning to open a restaurant or other food
establishment in Whatcom County, what should I do first?
You will need to provide detailed construction plans,
and information on your proposed menu and method of food
preparation. This information is included in the Plan
Review Packet. To learn more about this process, visit the Business
Owners web page.
What permits do I need to sell food at a fair, festival,
or community event?
You need to purchase a Temporary Food Establishment Permit
from our office. Please contact our office at least 2 weeks
before your event, so we can process the application and
issue a permit before purchasing or preparing food. For more
information, please visit our Temporary
Events web page.
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