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Thurston County, Washington

The content on the Thurston County website is currently provided in English. We are providing the “Translation” for approximately 10 languages. The goal of the translation is to provide visitors with limited English proficiency to access information on the website in other languages. The translations do not translate all types of documents, and it may not give you an exact translation all the time. The translations are made through an automated process, which may not result in accurate or precise translations, particularly of technical and legal terminology.

Public Health and Social Services

Food Safety

Starting March 1, 2023, most food establishments need at least 1 employee with a Certified Food Protection Manager (CFPM) certificate.

The CFPM does not need to be at the restaurant at all times, but a valid CFPM certificate must be available during the inspection. The CFPM must ensure all managers or employees who may be left in charge are properly trained and can demonstrate Active Managerial Control (AMC). 

You must take one of the ANSI-accredited trainings approved by the state and pass a test to become a CFPM. Training is offered online. Thurston County Public Health & Social Services does not offer in-person CFPM courses.

Please contact Thurston County Public Health & Social Services Food Safety by phone or email for more information.

1 AAA Food Safety Training, test or both. English, Spanish.
American Safety Council Training, test or both.

English, Spanish, Chinese.

Training only: Vietnamese.

APS Culinary Dynamics (DBA: World Food Safety Organization) Training, test or both. English.
Learn2Serve Training and test or just test. English, Spanish.
National Registry of Food Safety Professionals In-person or online test options. Support materials for self-study.

In-person: English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean.

Online: English, Spanish.

National Restaurant Association Solutions

In-person or online training and exam.

Or online test and support materials for self-study.

English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean.
Responsible Training/Safeway Certifications Training and test or just test. English.
The Always Food Safe Company Training, test or both. English, Spanish.

Street vending is allowed in Thurston County by applying for a mobile food unit permit and asking for a variance. The variance allows the use of a temporary-style setup, i.e., using a pop-up shelter, insulated cooler handwash station, and coolers with ice without being at a public event.

The completed mobile food unit application must be submitted with an application fee of $750. The completed variance request has a fee of $425. Both of these costs are one-time fees and do not need to be renewed each year with the food permit. Both the permit and the variance are required to operate as a street vendor. Once completed, the plan review process takes approximately 6 weeks. 

Read the Street Vending Guide to learn more.

View the Environmental Health Fee Schedule* (TC) 


Permanent Food Establishments

Food Establishment Application

Septic System Supplemental Form (must be completed if utilizing a septic system for wastewater disposal)

Food Establishment Change of Ownership Application

Pre-Opening Checklist


Food Trucks & Push Carts (Mobile Food Units)

Mobile Food Application

Mobile Food Unit Guide

Reciprocity Application


Catering Businesses

Catering FAQ

Catering Application

Catering Commissary Agreement


Exempt from Food Permit

Certain food items may be exempt from permit based on Chapter 246-215, Washington Administrative Code (WAC), 8-301.12 Exempt from Permit. The exemption is valid for one year from February 1st to January 31st, and must be renewed annually. Exempt food items include popcorn (including kettle corn), cotton candy, dried herbs and spices (if processed in an approved facility), corn on the cob, whole roasted peppers (if roasted for immediate service), roasted nuts (including candy coated), individual fruit & vegetable samples (slices from non-TCS produce), chocolate dipped ice cream bars (prepared using commercially prepared pre-packaged ice cream bars), and chocolate dipped bananas (prepared from bananas peeled and frozen in an approved facility).

This application must be submitted at least 14 calendar days prior to date of food service. Plan review fees will be billed according to the Environmental Health Fee Schedule once review is complete. Fees must be paid prior to being approved to operate.

Exempt from Food Permit Application


Donor Kitchens

Donor Kitchen Application


Other Documents

Request for variance - talk to a Food Safety staff member if you are submitting a request for Sanitary Code variance

*Notice regarding payments by credit or debit card: If paying by credit or debit card, you will be responsible for paying the processing fee of 2.35% of the amount due to the County or a minimum of $2.00, whichever is greater. You still have the option to pay by check or cash without any additional fee. (Please do not send cash through the mail.)

Please read the Temporary Food Event Requirements to Operate before vending at a temporary food event in Thurston County.


Single Temporary Event Permit

If you will be vending one time at a temporary event, you should complete a single temporary event application.

All portions of this application must be completed, legible, signed, and submitted to Thurston County Public Health & Social Services at least 14 days prior to the public event. After your application is accepted, a staff member will call you to take payment over the phone. Payment in the form of cash, check, or card may also be taken at our office at 3000 Pacific Ave SE between 8 am and 4 pm. Applications received less than two full business days or less prior to the event will not be accepted.

Temporary Event Application

Temporary Food Fee List

Temporary Food Event Guidelines for First Time Operators


Multiple Temporary Event Permit

If you are a new operator in Thurston County OR you have never applied for a multiple permit before, you must first submit three separate single temporary event applications. Upon passing three inspections, a multiple temporary event permit may be issued. If you are a returning vendor who had a multiple temporary event permit last year, you may complete and submit the multiple application

All portions of this application must be completed, legible, signed, and submitted to Thurston County Public Health & Social Services at least 14 days prior to the public event. After your application is accepted, a staff member will call you to take payment over the phone. Payment in the form of cash, check, or card may also be taken at our office at 3000 Pacific Ave SE between 8 am and 4 pm. Applications received less than two full business days or less prior to the event will not be accepted.

Multiple Temporary Application


Farmers' Markets

Farmers' Market Coordinator Application

Farmers' Market Vendor Application*

Farmers' Market Guide

*Use of a multiple temporary permit for The Olympia Farmers' Market is not permitted as the market operates for more than 3 days per week. For more information, call or email Thurston County Public Health Food Safety staff.


Other Info

  • If you are an event coordinator, you must complete and submit a Coordinator's Checklist 30 days prior to the event.
  • No temporary food establishment permit is required for a nonprofit organization operating for religious, charitable, or educational purposes and selling non-TCS baked goods. View the Bake Sale Guidelines for more information.
  • Some foods are exempt from needing a permit. Exempt permits must be renewed every year. Items which may be exempt from a permit include popcorn (including kettle corn), cotton candy, dried herbs and spices (processed in an approved facility), corn on the cob (prepared for immediate service), roasted nuts (including candy coated), fruit & vegetable samples (no melons, tomatoes, or TCS items), chocolate dipped ice cream bars, chocolate dipped bananas, slushies (non-TCS ingredients, does not include snow cones or shaved ice).
    Exempt from Permit Application

A valid Washington State Food Worker Card is required to work at any food service establishment in Thurston County.

Get a Food Worker Card

New Food Worker Cards are valid for 2 years. If you renew your card 60 days or less before it expires, your new card will be valid for 3 years.

If you have taken a CFPM course within the past 2 years, your Food Worker Card can be valid for 5 years. After you renew your Food Worker Card, send an email to with a copy of your CFPM certificate, name, and DOB to receive a Food Worker Card that is valid for 5 years.

Food Worker Manual

Food Worker Manual - English

Food Worker Manual - Spanish

Additional Languages (WA DOH)

Thurston County Public Health & Social Services conducts routine kitchen inspections for all retail food establishments in the county.  If you are interested in inspection reports from previous years, please contact Thurston County Public Health & Social Services with the name and address of the establishment. Read on to learn more about what our inspection reports mean.

Points Violation Detail

There are 50 food safety violations in two types: red or blue. Red violations are high risk factors that contribute directly to foodborne illness. Blue violations are low risk factors defined as good retail practices. Violations worth higher numbers of points are more likely to lead to foodborne illness. 

Examples of red violations include: 

  • Food found not hot enough must be reconditioned.
  • A refrigerator that is not cold enough must have its thermostat adjusted or be emptied and fixed before being used again, depending on its temperature.
  • A hand wash sink that is full of dishes, or is out of soap or paper towels, must be cleared or restocked.

Examples of blue violations include:

  • Damaged floor that needs to be replaced because it is hard to keep clean and may need to be repaired within six months.
  • Grease and food accumulation on the floor underneath the cook line needs to be cleaned up within seven days.

Abbreviations and Terms

3-comp - Three compartment sink; used to wash/rinse/sanitize dishes

BHC - Bare hand contact

CH - Cold hold (i.e., refrigeration)

Commissary - an approved commercial kitchen used to prepare and store food, usually for food trucks or caterers.

FW - Food workers or employees of the food establishment

FWC – Food worker card; all food establishment employees must have a valid food worker card.

HH - Hot hold

HW - Hand wash

PIC - Person in charge

PPM - Parts per million; measurement of concentration

RTE - Ready-to-eat; food that will not be further cooked before serving.

TCS - Time/temperature control for safety (food) (previously PHF); food that requires time or temperature control for safety to limit pathogenic growth or toxin formation. These foods must be kept hot above 135˚F, cold below 41˚F, or thrown away 4 hours after leaving temperature control. 


Commercial refrigerators are designed and built to survive the constant opening and closing that happens in a restaurant kitchen. Their compressors are built to keep food below 41˚F and their doors, gaskets, shelves are also built to be easily cleanable. 

  • Merchandiser – These refrigerators are designed for unopened cans and bottles of beverages or other unopened single-serve products. They are not designed to be working refrigerators used in commercial kitchens. They are not easily cleanable or designed to withstand frequent opening and closing.
  • Home-style – These refrigerators are not acceptable at food establishments. Although much less expensive than commercial units, they tend not to last too long and are not reliable for keeping cold temperatures under normal commercial conditions.
  • Prep-cooler, prep-table, prep-case – These are terms for under-counter refrigerators that also have a refrigerated top with bins and a cover to keep cold ingredients handy for making salads, sandwiches, and the like.


Restaurants need to have at least three different types of sinks. They each have specific purposes and should not be used for other tasks.

  • Hand wash sink: The most important sink for food safety is a hand wash sink. A hand wash sink should be within 25 feet of any food preparation area. If the kitchen is larger, more than one may be needed. Hand wash sinks must always be available to be used and supplied with warm water, soap, and disposable towels.
  • Three-compartment sink: The three-compartment sink has three basins for the washing, rinsing, and sanitizing dishes and utensils. Restaurants may also have commercial dishwashers to make washing easier but the three-compartment sink is required.
  • Produce sink/prep sink: The produce or "prep" sink is used to rinse fruits or produce and to thaw or rinse raw meats. This sink must be kept clean and sanitized between uses so that raw meat juice does not end up on the lettuce or other RTE foods.
  • Mop sink: The mop sink can look like a utility sink or be on the floor with a raised sill around it. The mop sink can be used for mop bucket dumping, mop head rinsing, etc.

What We Do with Inspection Information

If the violation point total exceeds either 45 red points or 65 total points, a re-inspection will occur. A re-inspection incurs an additional fee and when the inspector returns, they confirm that any remaining red point violations have been corrected. Notes made during the re-inspection are shown next to the original inspection.

Solving Problems
Thurston County Public Health and Social Services aims to correct violations through education and to work with the food operator to make sure they have the proper resources to serve safe food. Violations are fixed more quickly and solutions stay in place longer if the person in charge understands the reasons behind the regulations. If violations are not fixed, further enforcement action may include additional visits (and more fees), an administrative hearing, or being closed until the problem is fixed. 

Making food at home can lead to foodborne illness when done incorrectly. Follow these four steps to food safety from the CDC to reduce your risk of foodborne illness when cooking at home. 

Clean: Wash your hands and surfaces often.

Pathogens that cause food poisoning can survive in many places and spread around your kitchen. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water before, during, and after preparing food and before eating. Always wash hands after handling uncooked meat, chicken and other poultry, seafood, flour, or eggs. Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running water.

Separate: Don’t cross-contaminate.

Raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs can spread germs to RTE (ready-to-eat) food unless you keep them separate. Keep raw or marinating meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs separate from all other foods in the refrigerator. Store raw meat, poultry, and seafood in sealed containers or below and away from other RTE foods so the juices don’t leak onto other foods. Do not wash raw meat, poultry, or eggs. Washing these foods can actually spread germs because juices may splash onto your sink or counters.

Cook to the right temperature.

Food is safely cooked when the internal temperature gets high enough to kill pathogens that can make you sick. Use a food thermometer to ensure foods are cooked to a safe internal temperature. Learn how to place the thermometer correctly in different food to get an accurate reading.

Check this chart for a detailed list of temperatures and foods, including shellfish and precooked ham.

Microwave food thoroughly by following recommended cooking and standing times. When reheating, use a food thermometer to make sure that microwaved food reaches 165°F.

Chill: Refrigerate promptly.

Bacteria can multiply rapidly if left at room temperature or in the “Danger Zone” between 41°F and 135°F. Keep your refrigerator at 41°F or below and know when to throw food out before it spoils. Package warm or hot food into clean, shallow containers and refrigerate. Refrigerate perishable food (meat, seafood, dairy, cut fruit, some vegetables, and cooked leftovers) within 2 hours. Thaw frozen food safely in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave. Never thaw food on the counter because bacteria multiply quickly in the parts of the food that reach room temperature.

Food Safety Information for Use at Home (HHS)

Current FDA & USDA Food Recalls

Keep Food Safe After a Disaster or Emergency (CDC)

Contact the Food and Environmental Services Section at 360-867-2667 or send an email to with additional questions.