What Are Food Inspections?

Welcome to the Whatcom County Food Inspection Report Site

This site provides the citizens of and visitors to Whatcom County with information about retail food safety inspections. 

Why are food establishments inspected?
The Washington State Food Code (WAC 246-215) and our local inspection program are designed to ensure that permitted food establishments are safe places to eat. The inspection reports are used as tools to measure compliance with the Food Code.  Inspections focus on Food Code violations and corrective actions.  Inspectors work together with food establishment operators to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. 

How often are food establishments inspected?
We set inspection frequency goals based on the complexity of food preparation methods at each establishment:
  • Complex menu such as full service restaurant or full service caterer – two inspections per year
  • Moderate menu such as fast food, sandwich shop, meat/seafood market – one inspection per year
  • Simple menu such as convenience store, coffee shop – one inspection every two years
Can I see original inspection reports on-line?
Only inspection summaries are available on-line.  The summary will only list violations cited.  Other observations are not included.  Specific inspection details such as temperature observations are also not included.  Original inspection reports are public records and may be obtained by completing a Public Records Request form.  Learn more about requesting public records at http://www.whatcomcounty.us/1027/Public-Records-Disclosure-Information.

Which food establishments are inspected by the Whatcom County Health Department?
The Whatcom County Health Department inspects retail food establishments.  These establishments include restaurants, schools, mobile vendors, coffee houses, delis, convenience stores, grocery stores, and other sites where food is sold or served to the public.  Approximately 1150 permanent food establishments are permitted in Whatcom County.  

How do I know the difference between an excellent inspection score and a poor inspection score? 
Each code violation indicates a risk of illness.  Red high risk violations are most likely to cause illness, based on past Washington State foodborne illness outbreaks.  Inspections with zero red high risk violations and two or fewer blue low risk violations are considered excellent.

What violations are the most serious?
The inspection report includes red high risk and blue low risk violations.  Red high risk violations are more likely to cause illness, based on Washington State foodborne illness data.  Red high risk violations often have higher hazard point scores.  Red high risk violations may be cited for:
  • Ill food workers
  • Poor handwashing habits
  • Bare hand contact with ready to eat food
  • Spoiled or adulterated food
  • Food contamination 
  • Improper food temperature control 
  • Improper use or storage of toxic chemicals
How can I report a complaint about a food establishment?
  • By telephone – call 360-778-6034 8:30 am – 4:30 pm Monday through Friday
  • By e-mail - EnvironmentalHealth@whatcomcounty.us
  • In person at 509 Girard Street in Bellingham
  • By mail - Whatcom County Health Department, 509 Girard St, Bellingham, WA  98225
What if a food establishment owner has changed?
Inspection records are provided only for the current establishment name and owner.  Inspections under previous ownership and for inactive sites are not included in these records.

How often will this web site be updated?
The web site will be updated every business day.

What else should I remember?
A report is a snapshot of food handling practices at the establishment at the time of inspection.  Conditions may be different when you visit. 
Inspections assess safe food handling practices and compliance with the Food Code.  Inspections do not address items such as customer service, food taste, or popularity.

One last thing…
We hope that you will find this information helpful and easy to use.  If you have any questions, please call the Environmental Public Health office at 360-778-6000, Ext. 2 between 8:30 am and 4:30 PM Monday through Friday.  You can also e-mail us at EnvironmentalHealth@whatcomcounty.us