EVERETT — If you’ve ever wondered how your local restaurant or grocery store fared on Snohomish Health District inspections, you can now find the information online.
Some 5,000 reports dating to June 2016 can now be viewed.
The site also allows people to see inspection reports on public pools and spas and file health-related complaints about restaurants, garbage and sewer issues, rats, schools, campgrounds and other locations.
The online restaurant reports don’t include letter grades or replicate King County’s system of posting smiling, neutral or frowning faces on front windows to help customers assess how well a business complies with food safety regulations.
Instead, visitors can read narrative reports. Sometimes, there’s just a simple comment: No violations.
Other times, they may find more detailed comments, such as describing a carton of eggs sitting in a preparation area with a temperature more than 10 degrees over what is recommended.
“When you see an inspection record, you may see a violation, something not at the right temperature or the hand sink that was not accessible or didn’t have soap and paper towels available,” said Jefferson Ketchel, the health district’s administrator. “What’s important is did they realize that and did they correct it right away?”
What the public should look for are the same violations occurring over the years, such as a restaurant always having temperature violations at its sandwich bar, he said. “That’s concerning.”
The health district has conducted 3,154 inspections of food establishments so far this year, finding 3,055 red violations, those considered most hazardous.
Food establishments are checked for issues most likely to cause people to become ill, such as whether food is being prepared or stored at the proper temperatures, and if workers frequently wash their hands and wear gloves as they’re preparing the food.
Inspectors make unannounced visits about twice a year to sites where food is being sold, Ketchel said.
“Any inspection is really a snapshot in time,” he said. “It may or may not be indicative of what happened yesterday or the week before.”
The goal is to prevent foodborne outbreaks of diseases from bacteria such as E. coli O157:H7, salmonella and campylobacter.
Inspectors look for how well employees have been trained in food safety. In addition to issues such as properly cooking and storing foods, improper handwashing remains a major problem in food preparation, he said.
When violations are found, health district employees work with the business to see that food preparation rules are being followed, Ketchel said.
“We’re looking to make sure things will run well the other 363 days in the year we won’t be there,” he said.
The health district reinspected 518 food establishments so far this year to ensure proper food handling and preparation. Five businesses were asked to meet with health district employees to discuss inspection violations. Three businesses were temporarily closed.
Some 198 people in Snohomish County were infected with campylobacter through the first nine months of the year. Symptoms include diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, fever, and abdominal cramps. It can be spread when milk, fruits and vegetables or the soil they grow in are contaminated with animal feces.
Fifteen county residents were sickened from January to September with E.coli 0157:H7, bacteria found in the environment, foods, and intestines of people and animals. Symptoms include stomach cramps, diarrhea which is often bloody, vomiting and fever.
Salmonella sickened 46 people through September. Symptoms include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps. The bacteria can be spread by undercooked poultry, ground beef, raw eggs and unpasteurized milk.
Overall, foodborne illness rates remain “pretty low” in Snohomish County, Ketchel said.
“At a restaurant there’s a reasonable expectation of trust that the food I’m about to eat was prepared in the safest manner possible,” Ketchel said. “My family and I will have an enjoyable meal and not regret it 24 or 48 hours later.”
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Food inspection reports are part of the new services available online at snohomishonline.envisionconnect.com. The inspection report link is on the left side of the page. The site also allows people to file health-related complaints about restaurants, garbage and sewer issues, rats, pools, spas, schools and campgrounds.