Food Inspection Overview

Food establishments that sell or serve food to the public in Whatcom County must get an annual permit and be inspected by the Whatcom County Health Department. We inspect restaurants, supermarkets, food trucks, convenience stores, coffee stands, meat markets, bakeries, schools, temporary events, and more. 

Every year about 48 million people in the U.S. get sick from foodborne illnesses. We inspect and permit food establishments and educate food workers to promote safe food handling and reduce the risk of getting sick from the food you eat.

During an Inspection

During an inspection, we observe and document food handling conditions. Inspectors use a Food Establishment Inspection Report based on the Washington State Retail Food Code, the rules for food handling in Washington State. Inspectors look for:

  • Employee health, hygiene, and handwashing
  • Food temperatures
  • Food preparation procedures
  • Food sources (Where food comes from)
  • Food storage practices
  • Facility cleaning and sanitation
  • Equipment maintenance 

Food Establishment Inspection Form

Food Establishment Inspection Report

When inspectors observe a violation of the food code, it is recorded on the form. There are two categories of violations, based on the risk for foodborne illness.

High risk (red) violations include items that may directly contribute to foodborne illness.  Examples of high risk violations include:

  • Handwashing and worker health and hygiene
  • Temperature control, such as cooking meats to the right temperature or keeping cold food cold enough
  • Food contamination
  • Unapproved food sources.  

Most red high risk violations must be corrected before the inspector leaves the establishment.

Low risk (blue) violations include items related to facility and equipment maintenance and sanitation. These items must be corrected but are less likely to cause illness.  The deadlines to fix the violations are included on the inspection report.

Inspection Results

Inspection results fall into one of four categories;

  • Approved
  • Follow-Up Required
  • Re-Inspection Required
  • Permit Suspension
You can learn more about each type of result here.

On rare occasions, an inspector may also include supplemental documents such as: