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​Frequently Asked Questions

Health Permits/Licenses

Q: What regulations govern food establishment permits/licenses in Island County?

A: Island County Code (8.10D.040) has adopted by reference Chapter 246-215 of Washington Administrative Code. These regulations are referred to as Island County Food Code.


Q: I am interested in opening a restaurant (or similar food establishment). Where do I start?

A: Visit the permanent food establishment webpage for plan review guidance and application materials. If the establishment is designed to be mobile see the mobile food establishment webpage for plan review guidance and application materials.


Q: I am interested in taking over an existing or previously permitted restaurant (or similar food establishment). Can they transfer their permit/license over to me or do I need to obtain a new permit/license?

A: Island County Food Code does not allow a health permit/license to be transferred from person to person OR location to location. The new permit holder is required to submit a new application packet and undergo a plan review to bring the establishment up to the current version of Island County Food Code.


Q: How long before opening or taking over ownership am I required to submit my application and when will the health permit/license be issued?

A: Island County Food Code requires an application packet to be submitted at least 30 days prior to planned opening and are processed in the order they are received. The plan review process usually takes between 30-90 days after submission of a complete application. Delays may result if corrections are required when plans submitted do not meet code requirements. The plan review process requires a review of plans and a required pre-opening inspection. The establishment must be built according to approved plans, obtain all required local permits/licenses (building, fire, etc.), and the establishment must pass inspection before a health permit/license is issued.


Q: I operate a mobile food establishment. Am I required to use a commissary kitchen or a servicing area?

A: Yes. A commissary kitchen and servicing area is required for all mobile food establishments. Additionally, commissary and servicing area agreements must be renewed annually, be pre-approved anytime a change occurs, and all commissary visits must be documented.


Q: I am interested in serving food at a special event such as a fair or festival. Where do I start?

A:  Visit the temporary food establishment webpage for plan review guidance, temporary food establishment application materials, and checklist.


Q: I am interested in serving food at an organized farmers market. Where do I start?

A:  Visit the temporary food establishment webpage for plan review guidance, farmers market application materials, and checklist.


Q: How long before operating a Temporary Food Establishment am I required to submit my application and when will the health permit/license be issued?

A: Island County Food Code requires a complete application to be submitted at least 14 days prior to the first planned operational date and are processed in the order they are received. The review process usually takes between 7-10 days after submission of a complete application. The process requires approval of application and a required pre-opening inspection. The establishment must operate in accordance with approved application, obtain all required local permits/licenses (event, temporary use, land use, fire, etc.), and the establishment must pass inspection before a health permit/license is issued on the day of the event.


Q: Are there are any exemption approvals offered for sale foods to the public?

A: Yes. Island County Food Code (08305) requires some foods to be served to the public with an exemption. An exemption approval application may be submitted.

 

Food Worker Cards & Certified Food Protection Managers

Q: Is a food worker card the same as a permit/license?

A: No. A food worker card refers to the card that is issued to a food worker that shows that the minimum training requirement before handling food served to the public has been met. A permit/license is issued to the owner (permit holder) of a food establishment that has undergone a plan review and pre-opening inspection to demonstrate compliance with Island County Food Code.


Q: I work at a restaurant (or similar food establishment). Do I need to get a food worker card?

A: Yes, a food worker card is required if you serve food to the public. You are a food worker if you work with unpackaged food, food equipment or utensils, or with any surface where people put unwrapped food. All food workers are required to have a valid food worker card to work in Washington. Additional information related to food worker cards can be found on the Washington Department of Health website.


Q: How can I obtain a food worker card?

A: Visit the Food Worker Card website to complete the online training course.


Q: Does my food establishment require a certified food protection manager to be on staff.

A: A certified food protection manager is required for any food establishment that is categorized as Risk Category 2 or 3 food establishment. Refer to your most recent inspection report or e-mail foodsafety@islandcountywa.gov if you are unsure of the risk category for your establishment.


Q: How can I obtain certified food protection manager certification?

A: There are currently seven organizations that accredited to offer certification. Visit our employee training website for links to current approved organizations.


Foodborne Illness and Food Safety Complaints

Q: How can I report a suspected foodborne illness or food safety related complaint?

A: A foodborne illness or food safety related can be reported using the Island County online complaint form or by calling (360) 679-7350 during normal operational hours. A complainant may request to be anonymous when submitting the online complaint. It is recommended that name and phone number be provide with all foodborne illness related complaints even if you choose to be anonymous. An inspector or public health nurse may need additional information to properly investigate foodborne illness complaints.
 

Restaurant Inspections

Q: How can I access or review restaurant inspection reports?

A: A copy of the most recent inspection is required to be made available by all food establishments. Island County Food Code (08350) requires all food establishments to notify customers that a copy of the inspection report is available for review upon request.  All inspections are also considered public record and copies may be requested by e-mailing foodsafety@islandcountywa.gov.


Q: How often do restaurants receive routine inspections?

A: Island County conducts routine inspections based on a risk-based frequency in accordance with Island County Food Code (08400) and as staffing allows. Additional inspections may be conducted for complaints, foodborne illness investigations, and when an establishment demonstrates a pattern of non-compliance.


Q: I received the inspection report, but I am having trouble understanding the report. What can I do?

A: See our Understanding My Report document to better understand what is included in a routine inspection report.