Food Illness & Complaints

Foodborne illness is most likely caused by a virus, bacteria, or parasite. Sometimes they are naturally in the food, other times they are cross contaminated onto the food by surfaces and hands. 

The most common symptoms of foodborne illness include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Most people recover from a foodborne illness without any lasting effects, but it is important that we investigate these occurrences to ensure that more people do not get sick. 

To help the community, please report to us any illness that you suspect may be related to a Snohomish County public food or water source such as a restaurant, grocery store, public event or campsite.

More information:


If you suspect you’ve gotten sick after eating food in Snohomish County, please contact us to report your illness at 425.339.8680. You can also report foodborne illness by emailing If you have a serious case of foodborne illness, please seek medical attention first. 


If you are concerned about unsanitary or unsafe conditions in a Snohomish County food establishment, submit a complaint online or call the food safety voicemail line at 425.339.8730. The Environmental Health Division follows up on complaints to ensure that businesses are safely following the food safety rules and regulations. Please do not use this form to report possible foodborne illness (see above).


There are some easy ways to help reduce the chance of getting or spreading a foodborne illness. Use the Food and Beverage Workers Manual to learn the requirements of handling food safely in a food service establishment.


Healthy food workers are important factors in foodborne illness prevention. To help prevent potential food contamination from an ill food worker, it is critical that the Person in Charge (PIC) and staff are aware of when an illness is required to be reported to the PIC.

Symptoms that require reporting or action include:

  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • persistent coughing or sneezing
  • discharges from the eyes, nose, or mouth. 

Many people get sick each year from food. The Washington State Department of Health has determined that many cases of illness could be prevented by three main things:

  • Proper handwashing - Washing hands the right way, for the right amount of time, will remove the germs that can be so harmful. Make sure that every employee is using soap and warm water and scrubbing their hands for 10-15 seconds each time they wash.
  • No bare hand contact - Avoiding bare hand contact with ready to eat foods will prevent the spread of germs from a food worker’s hands to the food they are preparing. Make sure that every employee is using some type of barrier, such as gloves, utensils or deli tissue, when working with ready to eat foods.
  • Excluding ill workers - Removing or excluding workers when they are ill helps to keep the germs out of the establishment. Make sure that employees understand when and why they should stay home. The Snohomish County Health Department has created Restriction and Notification of Ill Food Workers posters and employee signature handouts to help train employees. They are all located on our Educational Resources page. 

Safe Food Handling at Home

Don’t get sick from improperly handled or cooked foods. Discard all Time/Temperature Control for Safety (TCS) foods if they have been in the danger zone (41⁰F - 135⁰F). Here are some other important ways to handle food correctly and keep your food safe at home:Thermometor

  • Wash hands often for 10-15 seconds with soap and warm water.  
  • Wash food prep areas frequently and thoroughly.
  • Avoid reusing utensils that have touched raw meat.
  • If you are sick, do not help with the cooking.
  • Always cook meats to safe internal temperatures.
  • Refrigerate food within two hours of cooking.
  • Store meats and other perishables at cold temperatures - 41⁰F or colder.
  • If a power outage occurs, monitor freezer and refrigerator food temperatures. If power has been off for an extended period of time, discard all the TCS foods. When in doubt, throw it out!

The Washington State Department of Health has more information on how to keep food safe in the home.