Food Safety Program

WAC 246-215

All retail food establishments in Kittitas County, whether temporary or permanent, are annually permitted and inspected in accordance with WAC 246-215. These inspections include a compliance review of the kitchen and food storage areas, checks for proper storage of food, temperature monitoring for hot holding and cold holding sites/equipment, a review of the dishwashing facilities, and observation of employee's food handling practices. Equipment is assessed to ensure operation integrity. All efforts are made to ensure safe food for the public. If you see a problem or have a complaint about a food establishment, contact this department for investigation and follow-up. All complaints regarding potential foodborne illnesses are recorded and investigated.

The Environmental Health specialist conducts design reviews and consultations for new or remodeled food service establishments.

Announcement

New in 2016! Low Risk Temporary Food Service Permit: KCPHD now offers a new option for our temporary food operators. Low Risk Temporary Food Service Permits may be granted operators with minimal menu items such as cheese samples, precooked hot dogs, and espresso. Repeat Temporary Food vendors with outstanding inspection history are also eligible for Low Risk Temporary Food Service Permits. Low Risk Temporary Food vendors will be subject to interviews and self-inspections. All applications for Temporary Food Service Permits must be submitted at least two weeks before the first day of the event or the fee doubles. If you think your 2016 Temporary Food Event may be eligible for this reduced permit level, please contact an Environmental Health specialist.

Food Service Permit Application Process

New or remodeled food service establishments must submit an application for a permit at least 30 days before the planned opening of the establishment (WAC 246-215-08310). To apply for a food service permit or temporary food service permit, visit the Environmental Health Office in person at the address provided below. For your convenience, the permit application and supporting documents, which outline the application process, are provided above.

Kittitas County Public Health Office
507 N Nanum St Suite 102
Ellensburg, WA 98926

Food Handler Permits

A Food Handler Permit is required by law to work in a food establishment in the county. To obtain this permit, food establishment employees must complete a food handler's course and pass a test. This process takes approximately one hour, depending on the person. New food establishment employees have 14 days in which to meet this state requirement for their employment.

The food handler's course and test is now available online at www.foodworkercard.wa.gov/. Make sure you choose Kittitas County as your county of residence.

  • You can take the course and the test at any computer that is connected to the internet and a printer.
  • The course and test are offered in multiple languages: English, Cambodian, Cantonese, Korean, Mandarin, Russian, Spanish, Vietnamese and Closed Caption.
  • The cost is $10 and can be paid with VISA, MasterCard or Discover Cards.

If you don't have access to a computer with internet and a printer there are several places in the county where you can use a computer:

Kittitas County Public Health Department

507 N. Nanum Street, Suite #102, Ellensburg
(509) 962-7515
HOURS
  • Monday - Friday 9 AM - 3:30 PM

Carpenter Memorial Library

2 North Pennsylvania Avenue, Cle Elum
(509) 674-2313
HOURS
  • Tuesdays 9 AM - 5 PM
  • Wednesdays 11 AM - 7 PM
  • Thursdays 9 AM - 4 PM
  • Fridays 9 AM - 3 PM
  • Saturdays 10 AM - 2 PM

Ellensburg Public Library

209 North Ruby Street, Ellensburg
(509)-962-7250
HOURS
  • Monday - Thursday 10 AM - 7 PM
  • Fridays 10 AM - 6 PM
  • Saturdays / Sundays 1 PM - 5 PM

Kittitas Public Library

200 North Pierce Street, Kittitas
(509) 968-0226
HOURS
  • Tuesday 12PM - 5 PM
  • Thursday 12PM - 5 PM
  • Saturday 12PM - 5 PM

Roslyn Library


201 South 1st Street, Roslyn (509)-649-3420
HOURS
  • Monday 10 AM -7 PM
  • Tuesday 10 AM -7 PM
  • Wednesday 10 AM -7 PM
  • Thursday 10 AM -7 PM
  • Friday through Sunday 1 PM - 5 PM

Upper Kittitas County Senior Center

719 East 3rd Street, Cle Elum
(509)-674-7530
HOURS
  • Monday - Thursday 8 AM - 4 PM
  • Fridays 8 AM - 3 PM


On-site food handler's classes (10 or more participants) are still offered upon request. Call (509) 962-7515 to request a class be taught on-site.

If you need special accommodations for taking the food handler's course, please contact us at 509-962-7515 to discuss options.

More Information

Contact an Environmental Health Specialist II at (509) 962-7515.

Causes and Symptoms of Foodborne Illness

Foodborne illness is caused by consuming contaminated foods or beverages. Many different disease-causing microbes, or pathogens, can contaminate foods, so there are many different types of foodborne illnesses.

Most foodborne illnesses are infections caused by a variety of bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Other diseases are poisonings caused by harmful toxins or chemicals that have contaminated food.

Of note, many foodborne pathogens also can be acquired through recreational or drinking water, from contact with animals or their environment, or through person-to-person contact.

Symptoms of Foodborne Illness

Common symptoms of foodborne illness are diarrhea and/or vomiting, typically lasting 1 to 7 days. Other symptoms might include abdominal cramps, nausea, fever, joint/back aches, and fatigue.

The incubation period (the time between exposure to the pathogen and onset of symptoms) can range from several hours to 1 week.

What are the most common foodborne infections?

The most commonly recognized foodborne infections are those caused by the bacteria Campylobacter, Salmonella, and E. coli O157:H7, and by a group of viruses known as the Noroviruses.

Campylobacter is a bacterial pathogen that causes fever, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps. It is the most commonly identified bacterial cause of diarrheal illness in the world. These bacteria live in the intestines of healthy birds, and most raw poultry meat has Campylobacter on it. Eating undercooked chicken, or other food that has been contaminated with juices dripping from raw chicken, is the most frequent source of this infection.

Salmonella is also a bacterium that is widespread in the intestines of birds, reptiles and mammals. It can spread to humans via a variety of foods of animal origin. The illness it causes, salmonellosis, typically includes fever, diarrhea and abdominal cramps. In persons with poor underlying health or weakened immune systems, it can invade the bloodstream and cause life-threatening infections.

E. coli O157:H7 is a bacterial pathogen that has a reservoir in cattle and other animals. Human illness typically follows consumption of food or water that has been contaminated with microscopic amounts of cow feces. The illness it causes is often a severe and bloody diarrhea and painful abdominal cramps, without much fever. In 3% to 5% of cases, a complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome can occur several weeks after the initial symptoms. This severe complication includes temporary anemia, profuse bleeding, and kidney failure.

Norovirus is an extremely common cause of foodborne illness. It causes an acute gastrointestinal illness, usually with more vomiting than diarrhea, which resolves within two days. Unlike many foodborne pathogens that have animal reservoirs, it is believed that noroviruses spread primarily from one infected person to another.

Foods Associated with Foodborne Illness

  • Raw foods of animal origin, for example, raw meat and poultry, raw eggs, unpasteurized milk, and raw shellfish are the most likely kinds of food to be contaminated.
  • Fruits and vegetables can also be contaminated with animal waste when manure is used to fertilize produce in the field, or unclean water is used for washing the produce.
  • Raw sprouts are particularly prone to contamination because the conditions under which they are sprouted are ideal for growing microbes.
  • Unpasteurized fruit juices or cider can also be contaminated if there are pathogens on the fruit that is used to make them.
  • Any food item that is touched by a person who is ill with vomiting or diarrhea, or who has recently had such an illness, can become contaminated. When these food items are not subsequently cooked (e.g., salads, cut fruit) they can pass the illness to other people.

How are foodborne infections diagnosed?

The infection is usually diagnosed by specific laboratory tests that identify the causative organism. Bacteria are found by culturing stool samples in the laboratory and identifying the bacteria. Parasites can be identified by examining stools under the microscope. Viruses are more difficult to identify, as they are too small to see under a microscope and are difficult to culture. Viruses are usually identified by testing stool samples for genetic markers that indicate a specific virus is present.

How are foodborne infections treated?

There are many different kinds of foodborne infections and they may require different treatments, depending on the symptoms they cause. Illnesses that are primarily diarrhea or vomiting can lead to dehydration if the person loses more body fluids and salts (electrolytes) than they take in. Replacing the lost fluids and electrolytes is important. Other treatments can help the symptoms, and careful handwashing can prevent the spread of infection to other people.

Antibiotics may or may not be used to treat foodborne infections. Many diarrheal illnesses are caused by viruses and will improve in 2 or 3 days without antibiotic therapy. In fact, antibiotics have no effect on viruses, and using an antibiotic to treat a viral infection could cause more harm than good. Often, it is not necessary to take an antibiotic even in the case of a mild bacterial infection. Overuse of antibiotics is the principal reason many bacteria are becoming resistant. Resistant bacteria are no longer killed by the antibiotic. This means that it is important to use antibiotics only when they are really needed. Partial treatment can also cause bacteria to become resistant. If an antibiotic is prescribed, it is important to take all of the medication as prescribed, and not stop early just because the symptoms seem to be improving.

What are foodborne disease outbreaks and why do they occur?

An outbreak of foodborne illness occurs when a group of people consume the same contaminated food and two or more of them come down with the same illness. It may be a group that ate a meal together somewhere, or it may be a group of people who do not know each other at all, but who all happened to buy and eat the same contaminated item from a grocery store or restaurant. For an outbreak to occur, something must have happened to contaminate a batch of food that was eaten by the group of people. Often, a combination of events contributes to the outbreak.

Many outbreaks are local in nature. They are recognized when a group of people realize that they all became ill after a common meal, and someone calls the local health department.

The vast majority of reported cases of foodborne illness are not part of recognized outbreaks, but occur as individual or "sporadic" cases.

What can consumers do to protect themselves from foodborne illness?

A few simple precautions can reduce the risk of foodborne diseases:

COOK meat, poultry and eggs thoroughly. Using a thermometer to measure the internal temperature of meat is a good way to be sure that it is cooked sufficiently to kill bacteria. For example, ground beef should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F. Eggs should be cooked until the yolk is firm.

SEPARATE: Don't cross-contaminate one food with another. Avoid cross-contaminating foods by washing hands, utensils, and cutting boards after they have been in contact with raw meat or poultry and before they touch another food. Put cooked meat on a clean platter, rather than back on one that held the raw meat.

CHILL: Refrigerate leftovers promptly. Bacteria can grow quickly at room temperature, so refrigerate leftover foods if they are not going to be eaten within 4 hours. Large volumes of food will cool more quickly if they are divided into several shallow containers for refrigeration.

CLEAN: Wash produce. Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables in running tap water to remove visible dirt and grime. Remove and discard the outermost leaves of a head of lettuce or cabbage. Because bacteria can grow well on the cut surface of fruit or vegetables, be careful not to contaminate these foods while slicing them up on the cutting board, and avoid leaving cut produce at room temperature for many hours. Don't be a source of foodborne illness yourself. Wash your hands with soap and water before preparing food. Avoid preparing food for others if you yourself have a diarrheal illness.

REPORT: Report suspected foodborne illnesses to your local health department. The local public health department is an important part of the food safety system. Often calls from concerned citizens are how outbreaks are first detected. If a public health official contacts you to find our more about an illness you had, your cooperation is important. In public health investigations, it can be as important to talk to healthy people as to ill people. Your cooperation may be needed even if you are not ill.

What can consumers do when they eat in restaurants?

You can protect yourself first by choosing which restaurant to patronize. Restaurants are inspected by the local health department to make sure they are clean and have adequate kitchen facilities. These inspections are performed on an annual basis with the original document provided to the establishment and a copy placed in the Health Department's files. These files are available to the public through the public disclosure process.

Food Establishment Inspections Online

You can also protect yourself from foodborne disease when ordering specific foods, just as you would at home. When ordering a hamburger, ask for it to be cooked to a temperature of 160°F and send it back if it is still pink in the middle. Before you order something that is made with many eggs pooled together, such as scrambled eggs, omelets or French toast, ask the waiter whether it was made with pasteurized eggs, and choose something else if it was not.

When should I consult my doctor about a diarrheal illness?

A health care provider should be consulted if a diarrheal illness is accompanied by

  • high fever (temperature over 101.5°F, measured orally),
  • blood in the stools,
  • prolonged vomiting that prevents keeping liquids down (which can lead to dehydration),
  • signs of dehydration, including a decrease in urination, a dry mouth and throat, and feeling dizzy when standing up,
  • diarrheal illness that lasts more than 3 days.

Certain individuals, especially those that are young, old, pregnant, or have chronic medical conditions or weakened immune systems, may be at increased risk of complications from a foodborne infection. These individuals should contact their health care provider early in their illness for evaluation.

What is the Kittitas County Public Health Department doing to control and prevent foodborne disease?

The Kittitas County Public Health Department works in accordance with Chapter 246-215 of the Washington Administrative Code to provide safety standards for food served or sold to the public in Kittitas County. This includes regular inspections of all food establishments, food-handler education classes, and enforcement of these codes. In addition, the Health Department looks into all foodborne illness complaints and works with the Washington State Department of Health to investigate foodborne outbreaks.

What should you do if you suspect you have a foodborne illness?

Foodborne diseases are largely preventable, though there is no simple one-step prevention measure like a vaccine. Instead, measures are needed to prevent or limit contamination all the way from farm to table. If you suspect that you have a foodborne illness, please contact the Kittitas County Public Health Department or contact your local health care provider.

Additional information on foodborne illness

Washington State Department of Health, Food Safety Program

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The US Food and Drug Administration