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Thurston County, Washington

Public Health and Social Services

Food Safety

A new version of the Washington State Retail Food Code went into effect March 1, 2022. One of the biggest changes is that effective March 1, 2023, most food establishments must have at least one employee who is the certified food protection manager (CFPM) with national ANSI certification from one of six approved providers. The CFPM does not need to be at the restaurant at all times, but must ensure all managers or employees who may be left in charge are properly trained and able to ensure Active Managerial Control (AMC). Please contact Thurston County Public Health & Social Services for more information and to determine whether your establishment needs a CFPM.

Top 10 Washington State Food Code Changes

List of Approved CFPM Courses

View the Environmental Health Fee Schedule*


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

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

All portions of this application must be completed, legible, signed, and submitted, with full payment, to Thurston County Public Health & Social Services at least 14 days prior to the public event. Applications received less than two full business days or less prior to the event may 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 using the same equipment and the same menu, the multiple temporary permit will cover all of your public events in Thurston County for the calendar year. The fee is the same as three single temporary event permits, so if you are doing more than three events, you will save money.

Multiple Temporary Application

Farmers' Market

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 Thurston County Public Health Food Safety staff.

Other Documents

Coordinator's Checklist

Bake Sale Guidelines

Get a Food Worker Card

All food service workers need to be trained and tested on safe food handling procedures. A valid Washington State Food Worker Card is required to work at any food service establishment in Thurston County.

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 violations exceed either 45 red points or 65 total points, a re-inspection must occur. A re-inspection incurs an additional fee and the inspector confirms that any remaining red point violations were fixed. Sometimes, a re-inspection confirms that staff have been re-trained on proper handwashing, or that out-of-date food worker cards have been renewed. Notes made during the re-inspection are shown next to the original inspection.

Solving Problems
Thurston County Public Health aims to correct violations through education and to work with the food operator to make sure they have the proper resources to fix the food safety problem identified during the inspection. Violations are fixed more quickly and the fixes 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), being called in for an administrative hearing, or ultimately 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.