Food Safety Program
The Food Safety Program is the Environmental Health Division's largest program, and it is responsible for conducting plan reviews, complaint investigations and food safety assessments of food service establishments such as restaurants, grocery stores, school kitchens and caterers.
Address: 4480 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22302
Regular Office Hours: 8 am to 4:30 pm, Monday-Wednesday and Friday; 1 pm to 4:30 pm, Thursday afternoons. Our office is closed during state holidays.
eNews Group: For alerts and new updates about this program, subscribe to our Food Safety News for Businesses group. You can get updates sent to your email, phone, pager, or all three.
What is food defense?
Food defense means preventing or eliminating the intentional tampering or contamination of food. Tampering or contamination may be biological, chemical, physical, nuclear or radioactive. Deliberate tampering or contamination of food includes malicious, criminal and terrorist acts.
Why should you be concerned with Food Defense?
You and your employees are the front line in protecting the nation’s food supply. Everyday thousands of people eat, drink and snack at food establishments in Alexandria. Retail food establishments like yours have been identified as a potential target for intentional tampering and contamination of food. An attack on the food supply in Alexandria could cause mass illness and panic and have a huge effect on our economy.
What should you do?
The FDA, USDA and Homeland Security have created a number of food defense tools for food establishment operators and employees. Ensure that all employees are trained in food defense and can identify potential threats to your food supply. You can start by implementing the Employees FIRST and ALERT initiatives.
Remember, you and your employees should trust your instincts. If something seems suspicious, it probably is. If You See Something, Say Something!TM
Food Manager's Certification
To print a summary of this information, click here.
What is a Food Protection Manager?
A Food Protection Manager, FPM, ( Prviously Certified Food Manager ) is a specially trained individual who supervises the food safety operations within a restaurant, cafeteria, grocery, or other food establishment. The FPM’s purpose is to reduce foodborne illness risk factors (.pdf) and implement public health interventions. The FPM is also expected to demonstration knowledge (.pdf) of food safety to the Health Department’s Environmental Health Specialist while the facility is being inspected. In restaurants, the Food Protection Manager is usually a manager, chef, or cook. In a retail establishment, like a grocery store, the FPM is usually a store or department manager. The FPM should be an individual with authority to train, monitor and direct other employees.
To be considered a FPM in the City of Alexandria and Arlington County, a person needs to obtain a Northern Virginia FPM card. This card is a photo identification card issued by ORS Interactive, Inc., and is proof that the person has passed an accredited food safety exam within the last five years.
How to Obtain a Northern Virginia FPM Card
- RECOMMENDATION: Take a preparation course. This is NOT a requirement to obtain a FPM card, but is highly recommended. Often, an accredited exam is offered upon completion of a preparation course, so contact any one of the vendors below for details.
- Take and pass one of the three exams accredited by the Conference for Food Protection. The three accredited exams are listed below. Although ORS Interactive, Inc. proctors one of these exams, it is not required that you take the exam at their location. Many companies proctor exams; you only need to verify that the food safety exam you are taking is one of the three accepted.
- Bring proof of passing your accredited exam, the card-processing fee, and any other necessary documentation to ORS Interactive, Inc. ORS will take your picture and issue you a card. ORS Interactive Inc. is the only vendor approved to issue a Northern Virginia FPM and card. See ORS’ contact information below.
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ORS Interactive, Inc.
6066 Leesburg Pike, Suite 200-B
Falls Church, VA 22041
New or Renewal Card Fee: $45.00
CFM Exam Fee: $70.00
LCFM Exam Fee: $15.00
Hours of Operation
Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Saturday, 8 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Closed on all national holidays.
Local Preparation Courses
||A Better Company for Premier Food Safety
||English, Spanish, Korean, Mandarin & Vietnamese
American Food Safety Institute
|English, Spanish, Arabic & Mandarin
ServeSafe Instructor & Proctor
||Food Safety and Salud
||English & Spanish
||(online course, no exam offered)
||Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC)
||ORS Interactive, Inc.
Exams: English, Spanish, Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, French, Italian & Arabic
||Red Poppy Catering
||Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington (RAMW)
||Course: English & Spanish
Exams: English, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Korean & French Canadian
||Rubert and Associates, LLC
||English & Spanish
||Virginia Hospitality & Travel Association
||State Food Safety
||English & Spanish
Food Service Employee Health Policy
The Alexandria Food Code requires each food establishment within the City to help reduce the risk of transmitting foodborne illnesses. The Certified Food Managers and the employees of the establishment help maintain a healthy environment by mitigating risks and understanding their responsibilities for reporting illnesses and potential exposures. The following links below review the Food Code requirements and provide guidance to food establishments on how to meet them.
Alexandria Food Safety Advisory Council
This information is available on a separate page.
Food Safety Resources & Training
The Health Department receives numerous requests for information about an array of food safety topics.
- Detecting Defective Cans
These Can Defect Slides (.pdf) can help you determine if a canned food is too badly dented to use.
- Cooking for Groups
The USDA developed this pamphlet, Cooking for Groups (.pdf) - (en español ), to assist volunteers who are serving food to large groups of people. Additional resources are available from the USDA website.
- Demonstration of Knowledge
All Food Protection Managers are expected to be able to demonstrate their knowledge of food safety to an Environmental Health Specialist while being inspected. Examples of what a FPM should know are included in this Demonstration of Knowledge (.pdf) guide.
- H1N1 and Restaurants
Due to the increase of the H1N1 flu virus, the Health Department has prepared this H1N1 and Food Service Pamphlet (.pdf) to advise restaurant owners and managers on the illness.
- Handwashing Posters
All restaurants in the City of Alexandria must post signs at all handwashing sinks in their facility. These signs are available commercially or this Handwashing Poster can be printed and posted.
- Restaurant Take-Out Safety
Food items prepared in advance for take-out have special food handling concerns. This Restaurant Take-Out Safety Guide (.pdf) can provide information to safely handle such food.
- Food Safety and a Power Outage
For more information on what to do when the power goes out, see alexandriava.gov/30086.
Many government regulatory authorities and private industry groups offer publications to help you make smart food safety decisions. Some publications we have reviewed are on the following list of publications.
Bon Appétit Newsletter
Quarterly, the EH Division distributes the publication FoodTalk to establishments it permits in the City. In combination with this publication, the EH Division has created its own newsletter, Bon Appétit, to provide more specific information about the happenings in Alexandria City. Issues of Bon Appétit are available by contacting 703.746.4910.
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Food Safety Education Month
September is National Food Safety Education Month. For more information or training materials on Food Safety Education, visit the following websites:
Notice of Violations (Tickets)
If your establishment has been issued a civil penalty for non-compliance of a City of Alexandria Code or Regulation, the back of your Notice of Violation (click here to see an example) will explain what your next steps should be.
- If you decide not to contest the violation, the payment of the Notice of Violation must be sent to the Treasury at City Hall (301 King Street). Do not send your payment to the Health Department.
- If you would like to contest the violation, you must make your objection in writing to the Health Department within 10 days of the violation's issuance.
Obtain a Health Permit
The Alexandria Health Department reviews applications for the following:
- Establishment Health Permits for new and/or existing restaurants, carryouts, groceries, commissaries, cafeterias, or convenience stores, and for food services for hotel/motels, child care facilities, elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, colleges, detention centers / jails, nursing homes, hospitals, group homes, etc.
- Temporary Food Permits for temporary or special event food vendors. The event coordinator must also submit an application where food vendors will be present
- Farmers' Market Registration: EH conducts a review for food vendors who want to participate at the Farmers' Markets.
For more information on these items, please refer back to the Permits webpage.
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Food Code & Regulations
The City of Alexandria's Food and Food Handling Code can be found in Title 11, Chapter 2 of The Code of the City of Alexandria, Virginia, 1981 as amended at the City Council's webpage: City Charter and Code. Environmental Health Specialists (EHS) are utilizing this code for all evaluations and inspections of food establishments within the City. For information regarding the code, training opportunities, etc., visit our separate web page at alexandriava.gov/11492.
Food Safety Inspections
View an Inspection Report
All routine inspections of restaurants and mobile food vendors are posted on the web here. Requests for other inspections can be provided to Virginia residents through a Freedom of Information Act request (FOIA) through the City Attorney's Office.
What Does EH Inspect?
The Environmental Health staff performs evaluations and inspections of food service establishments that the EH Division permits. These facilities include restaurants, bakeries, caterers, commissaries, public and private school kitchens, delicatessens, mobile food vendors, nursing homes, hospitals, festivals and grocery stores. EH Division does not inspect facilities that it does not permit, unless that inspection is conducted as a courtesy for another agency (ig. USDA, Social Services, etc.). When conducting inspections, the Health Department evaluates an establishment according to the current Food Code.
Inspection Types & Frequencies
The Environmental Health field staff conduct several types of inspections, including: Routine, Risk Assessment, Training, Complaint, Follow-up, Courtesy, and Pre-opening. With the exception of the pre-opening and training inspections, all environmental health inspections are unannounced. Complaint and follow-up inspections occur on an as-needed basis, and routine inspections can occur from 1 to 5 times per year, depending on the risk posed by the food prepared and served (the higher the risk of a food borne illness = the higher the frequency of inspection). Pre-opening inspections occur by appointment only, and only when a food facility prepares to open for the for the first time, after construction or renovation, or before a seasonal facility anticipates re-opening for the spring season.
Other Related Links:
On December 1, 2009, the Virginia Indoor Clean Air Act (.pdf) established a statewide ban on smoking in restaurants in Virginia. Certain restaurants may obtain approval from the Health Department to allow smoking in certain sections in their facility, so long as they can meet the exemption(s) listed in Article 2 of the Virginia Indoor Clean Air Act. For example, one exemption requires that the restaurant be constructed in such a manner that the areas where smoking may be permitted is structurally separated from the portion of the restaurant in which smoking is prohibited and such areas are separately vented.
In Alexandria, when a restaurant qualifies for a Virginia Indoor Clean Air Act exemption (like the 'structurally separated and separately vented' exemption), the Health Department issues a notice (poster) outlining: 1) which exemption the facility has met, 2) the description of the area that the notice refers to, and, 3) a city reference number that our office can refer to during any subsequent investigation. We encourage all Alexandria patrons who observe smoking in a restaurant to ask to see the Health Department's notice (if it is not visible) and to speak candidly with the restaurant owner or manager about the new rules before making a complaint with the Health Department.
Restaurant operators and owners who are looking for more specific guidance on the Virginia Indoor Clean Air Act should review the materials below or refer back to the EH Division's main page and see our Respiratory Health Section.
Finally, restaurants in the City of Alexandria must continue to comply with the smoking prohibitions specified in Title 11, Chapter 10 of the Code of the City of Alexandria (.pdf). This section of the City Code outlines requirements for the ratio of smoking to non-smoking seats in a restaurant, and has not changed with the addition of the Virginia Indoor Clean Air Act.