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Public Health – Seattle & King County is offering virtual food safety assessments for our food establishment partners. These will not affect food safety ratings but will be used to help restaurants protect the public from foodborne illness while reducing the risk of spreading COVID-19 by limiting in-person interactions.

What is a virtual food safety assessment?

Virtual food safety assessments are an alternative method of conducting routine inspections including an option to perform abbreviated inspections in the field. They help ensure that safe food is served to King County residents and practice social distancing during these unprecedented times of COVID-19.

What are the virtual food safety toolkits used?

  • Schedule an appointment ahead of time via phone call or email. Every attempt will be made to schedule the inspection during non-busy hours of operation.

  • The inspection counts as a Virtual Food Safety Assessment, which will not affect your Food Safety Rating.

  • Focus on foodborne illness risk factors, such as taking internal temperatures of cold/hot held foods and final cook temperatures, reheating and hand washing etc., based on your food service establishment's past inspection history. You will need food thermometer to demonstrate temperature readings.

  • Follow a 'Checklist of Example Items' emailed ahead of time by your Investigator, who will address the items for observation during the virtual inspection. The virtual visit will also include emphasis on cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting, to prevent spread of COVID-19 on all food and non-food contact surfaces, especially frequent, high touch surfaces.

  • Ensure every effort will be made to work with you to take appropriate corrective action and alleviate the risk, should an observation be made of food safety practice or process that poses a public health risk during the virtual visit.

  • Provide a brief summary at the end of the virtual visit to discuss important findings that will assist you in enhancing your safe food handling practices and to answer any further questions.

  • Email a final report of your virtual visit to you with any helpful handouts related to COVID-19. Handouts in other languages are also available upon request. Based on investigator availability, we may also be able to accommodate conducting this virtual visit in another language. Please contact us for details.

What does the inspection look like?

  1. Introduction email sent to food service operators about the virtual food safety assessment
  2. Inspector schedules the assessment with you and confirms the video conferencing platform
  3. Discuss food safety topics and check temperatures
  4. At the end of the assessment, your inspector will email a copy of the report to you
  5. Contact your inspector if you have any questions

How to prepare

Food service operators will need:

  • Video conferencing tools
    • Set up video conferencing app such as Facetime, Google Duo, Zoom or Skype. Consider using earbuds or a headset to reduce ambient noise.

  • Thermometers required
    • Depending on your menu, have a dial stem thermometer (for thick foods) or a digital metal probe (for thin foods). Your inspector will have you check the temperatures of hot/cold foods. Have sanitizing solution or alcohol wipes to sanitize probe.

  • Handwash sinks
    • All handwash sinks must have hot water (at least 100°F), soap and paper towels. Your inspector will have you check the temperature of the water at the hand sink.

Be prepared to discuss the following:

  • Cleaning and sanitizing processes
    • Ensure the appropriate test kits are available such as chlorine or quaternary ammonium

  • Social distancing plan
    • Remind customers to stand at least 6 feet apart

  • Sick employee policy

Regulatory agencies seeking additional information about this program can contact Keith Chhum, Health & Environmental Investigator, at