Public Food Service
Many people do not think about food safety until a food-related illness affects them or someone they know. Although the food supply in the United States is one of the safest in the world, the CDC estimates that 76 million Americans get sick, more than 300,000 are hospitalized, and 5,000 die each year from foodborne illnesses.
The Benton-Franklin Health District Food Safety Program works to promote a healthier and safer community through education of our citizens, through education of food employees, and through food establishment inspections. There are over 1,000 licensed food establishments in Benton and Franklin Counties, including restaurants, mobile units, coffee shops, concession stands, school, and grocery stores. Each of these establishments has employees dedicated to serving safe meals.
In December 2017, the Benton-Franklin Health District approved fee increases that affect food establishments. The operating fees are a reflection of the time spent with each food facility for routine, complaint, illness, consultation, emergency, and educational inspections, as well as other services provided by our office. We try hard to use our time and resources efficiently to keep your fees as low as we can.
The increased fees became effective January 1, 2017.
In January of 2008, the Benton-Franklin Health District Board of Health approved a risk-based coding system and fee structure for food establishments in Benton and Franklin Counties.
Previously, restaurants in the district were charged based on the amount of customer seating: a coffee kiosk with zero seats paid the same annual fee as a restaurant with a full menu and up to twenty seats.
Following the adoption by the Board of Health, fees will now also be based on Risk Level Categories: Facilities that serve foods or conduct processes with increased levels of food safety hazards will be assigned a higher risk level and will pay a higher annual permit fee.
Foods and processes that increase risk include: preparing raw produce or meat, cooling hot foods, vacuum-packaging foods, and offering foods that require a Consumer Advisory.
Food Worker Training
All food workers must have a Washington State Food Worker Card within 14 days of hire.
- Employers must provide food safety training for employees until they can get their Food Worker Cards.
- How to get a Food Worker Card at the Benton-Franklin Health District
- Educational Materials to print for your facility
- Contact your inspector to arrange a Food Worker Card Class at your facility.
- There is a $10 charge per Food Worker Card
- Class must have at least 15 attendees
Food Establishment Inspections
Depending on the food handling risk, food establishments in Benton and Franklin Counties are inspected 1-4 times per year. Risk is based on many factors such as the type of menu, number of meals served, and the maximum seating capacity of the establishment.
During inspections, inspectors spend most of their time evaluating:
- food worker practices, including food worker hygiene,
- how the establishment purchases, receives and stores foods,
- how the workers handle and serve food, and
- the temperatures at which the workers cook, hold, and reheat foods.
Additional inspections are conducted for complaint, illness investigations, or educational purposes. Most inspections are unannounced and may be conducted anytime the business is open.
- Ten tips that will help a facility be ready for its health inspection.
- View an establishment’s inspection history on our online, searchable inspection site.
- Read the Washington State Food Establishment Rules and Regulations (this link will take you to the Washington State Department of Health. A hard copy of the rules is available from your inspector.)
Opening a New Food Establishment or Making Changes to a Current Establishment
Every new facility or existing establishment with extensive remodeling will need to go through the Plan Review Process to ensure the facility will meet state health requirements before construction begins.
Must be returned to the health department:
Need to read to complete application process:
This Month’s Featured Food Safety Materials
Check out all of the BFHD food safety materials available online
Internet Links for Other Agencies
Local City and County Contacts
Licensed Grease Trap Pumpers
Grease trap pumpers pump, clean, and remove wastes from grease traps. They are licensed by the health department and are required to dispose of the material at approved facilities. Here is a list of the two currently licensed firms (listed alphabetically) that serve our area.
Washington State Department of Labor and Industries
Washington State Liquor Control Board
Washington State Department of Licensing
Washington State Department of Health
- Food Safety Program (oversees retail food establishment regulations issued by the Washington State Board of Health)
U.S. Small Business Administration
Washington State Department of Revenue
Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
- Income tax withholding tables, withholding and Social Security taxes.
Top 10 Tips to Prepare for Your Inspection
Ensure you have at least one Person-In-Charge (PIC) that is knowledgeable of food safety rules and practices for your establishment (including when your establishment is required to be closed) present whenever food is prepared in your business.
9. Employee Health
Make sure your employees are familiar with your illness policy and know that they may not work when they are sick with anything that can be spread through food.
Each establishment with potentially hazardous food is required to have a calibrated metal stem thermometer (scaled from 0-220°F) able to take accurate temperatures. If your menu has thin meats (such as hamburgers, chicken strips, or fish filets) you must have a digital thermometer that is able to temp thin food.
7. Food and Equipment Storage
Make sure food and equipment are stored in areas that are protected from water, pests, dirt, and other potential contaminants. Be sure garbage and recycling storage is kept protected to prevent attracting or harboring pests.
6. Approved Source
Make sure you purchase your water, ice, and food supplies from approved agencies. Home-prepared foods are not permitted.
5. Holding Temperatures
Potentially hazardous food must be kept out of the Danger Zone for safety. Make sure your hot-holding equipment is able to keep all potentially hazardous food at 140°F. Be sure all leftover food is reheated to 165°F before it is added to a hot-holding unit. All pieces of refrigeration equipment must have a thermometer inside to monitor cold holding temperatures. Make sure equipment is able to keep all potentially hazardous food at 41°F or colder.
If your establishment prepares raw meat, be sure employees follow safe handling, storage, and preparation methods to prevent the spread of bacteria onto other food or equipment.
If your establishment is approved to cool foods, be sure employees follow proper procedures.
2. Food Worker Cards
Make sure every food worker has a current Washington State Food Worker Card and the card (or a copy of the card) is available for review by your inspector.
1. Handwashing and Bare Hand Contact Prevention
Check your handwashing sinks regularly throughout the day to make sure they stay stocked with paper towels, running water, and soap and that employees are using them as needed. Also make sure that proper utensils and gloves are available and used to prevent bare hand contact with ready-to-eat foods.