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. Information on code requirements, certified food manager credentials, inspections, food training resources, etc. are available on this site or linked sites.

Page updated on Jul 22, 2021 at 2:10 PM
All Alexandria Health Department Services by Appointment Only
To prevent the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus, all Alexandria Health Department services will only be available over the phone or by appointment, 8:00am - 4:30pm.  
Please call 703.746.4910 to make an appointment. 

For updates on COVID-19, visit 

Food Safety Updates

On July 1, 2021, the Alexandria Health Department will no longer require the Northern Virginia Food Managers Card. All food businesses will still need to have a certified food protection manager on site at all times of operation, but the additional card will be eliminated.  

Contact Us

Alexandria Health Department
Division of Environmental Health
4480 King Street, 3rd Floor
Alexandria, VA, 22302

Phone: 703.746.4910
Fax: 703.746.4919

Business Hours:

  • Monday - Friday: 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 

Permits, Plans & Renovations


Visit to learn more about the rules to serve or sell food.  



A plan review is a process that local governments use to ensure that a business can meet the local building, fire, health and safety codes. In Alexandria, a number of City Departments required a plan review, including the Department of Code Administration, Health, Zoning, etc. Each department focuses on their area of expertise. The Health Department looks at food equipment, processes, and menus items. We require a plan review before a business is built or renovated, or when the business remodels, expands, or adds certain menu items or cooking processes. To learn more, review our guide, visit or call 703.746.4910 option 2. To learn more about other city department reviews, visit for more information.


In most cases, a plan review is required before a renovation. If a food establishment would like to operate while remodeling or renovating, specific precautions must be taken to maintain food safety. Contact your inspecting EHS (Environmental Health Specialist) or call 703.746.4910 option 2. 

Food Protection Manager

What is a Certified Food Protection Manager?

A Certified Food Protection Manager, or FPM, is the person that supervises food safety operations at food facilities. Their job is to reduce the spread of foodborne illness. In restaurants, the FPM is usually a manager, chef or cook. In a grocery or retail store, the FPM is usually a manager. A FPM must:

  • Train, monitor and direct other employees
  • Pass an accredited food safety exam every five years
  • Demonstrate knowledge of food safety during a health inspection 
  • Further information of Certified FPM can be found here

Accredited Exams 

Our food code only recognizes food safety exams reviewed and approved by the Conference of Food Protection. There are currently four:

Visit for more information about the Conference of Food Protection.                 

    Guides for Food Safety 

    Templates & Guides for Permit Holders

    A list of documents, guides, and forms that can help you operate your permitted establishment according to code. Unless indicated, all resources are provided in a PDF format.

    • Canned Food
      [English Guide]
      Pictures of when to throw out dented or rusted cans.                                                              
    • Demonstration of Knowledge
      [English Guide]    [ Food Protection Manager]
      Guide outlining what the food protection manager will be asked about during an inspection.
    • Employee Health Guidance
      [English Guide]     
      Guide outlining what you should do when an employee is ill and asks to work. 
    • Employee Health Policy Agreement
      [English ]    [Español]
      Form template you can use with your employees to meet the employee health requirements in the food code.
    • Food Protection Manager
    • Guidance for Power Outage / Storm
      See for more information. 
    • Handwashing Posters
      [ English/Español]    [ English/Other]
      Bilingual posters that can be printed to place next to each hand sink in an establishment.    
    • Non-Continuous Cooking Guidelines & Procedures
      [English Guide]
      Guide on how to safely stop the cooking process to begin at a future time.
    • Parasite Destruction Guidance
      [English Guide] 
      For those that serve salmon, sushi, ceviche, sashimi, cold-smoked fish or other seafood in a raw or rare form.
    • Process HACCP Background Information
      [English Guide]
      Guide introducing the major components of a HACCP quality control plan for food service.
    • Terrorism
    • Time as a Public Health Control
      [English Form]
      Form template you can used to set up a 'Time as a Public Health Control' procedures.

    Food Safety Guides for Everyone

    Farmers' Markets

    The City of Alexandria has several farmers' markets.  To serve or sell food at any of these markets, complete and submit a Farmers' Market Food Registration Form to the Health Department. Remember that any prepared food sold at the market must be made in approved kitchen. Contact us for more information.

    Visit for more about local markets in the city. Visit to learn more about labeling requirements.

    Food Trucks

    To operate a food truck, or mobile food establishment, in the city of Alexandria, please review our guide first. Because a number of City department regulate food trucks, our rules different than Fairfax, Arlington and other neighboring jurisdictions.

    Temporary Food Permits

    Individuals, organizations, and/or businesses planning to serve or sell food at a public event must apply for a temporary event permit at least 30 days prior to the event. 

    If you want to hold or join a large event in the city, visit for the Special Event Office. City sponsored events are listed on the City's calendar

    View an Inspection

    You can view an online copy of a recent health inspection here. All violations listed on an inspection report are from the local Food and Food Handling Code.

    Environmental Health Specialists (or EHSs) do health inspections in person. The type of food you make, and how you make it, decides how many inspections you get. The more complex the food or process, the more visits you get. Almost all inspections are surprise inspections.

    We do the following health inspections:

    • Routine
    • Risk Assessment
    • Complaint
    • Follow-up
    • Training 
    • Pre-opening (scheduled in scheduled)

    The Health Department only inspects facilities that need or have a health permit. Local religious groups, some daycares, or fraternal organizations can ask for a courtesy inspection. We also provide courtesy inspections for other agencies like  the USDA, Social Services, etc.

    Make a Complaint

    If you are concerned about the safety or cleanliness of a food facility in the city, call 703.746.4910. Be prepared to give the following:

    • Name and address of the facility
    • Date and time of visit
    • What you saw

    An Environmental Health Specialist will investigate and report back to you. If you believe you got sick from eating at a restaurant, you can report it here

    Ticket: What to Do

    Did you or your business receive a Notice of Violation from the Health Department? You have ten days to decide what to do next. The back of the ticket lists your choices.

    Pay the Ticket

    • Complete the back of your ticket copy and mark "Admit Violation" or "No Contest."
    • Take it to City Hall at 301 King Street. For business hours, visit or call 703.746.3902.

    Disagree with the Ticket

    • We recommend you first  call 703.746.4910 and speak to your Environmental Health Specialist.
    • If you still disagree, complete the back of your ticket copy and mark "Contest Violation."
    • Take it to the Health Department at 4480 King Street within ten days. If you mail your ticket, call us so we know to expect it.
    • The Environmental Health Manager will read the ticket and invite you to a hearing at the Health Department. This meeting is your chance to show that the violation did not happen.
    • At the end of the hearing, the Manager will decide to uphold or waive the ticket.

    Food Defense

    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. 

    Smoking at Restaurants 

    In the City there are major two regulations that control smoking in food establishments:

    The Virginia Indoor Clean Air act established a statewide ban on smoking in restaurants in Virginia. However, a restaurant may create a smoking section if it requests permission from the Health Department and it meets one of the exemptions listed under Article 2 of the Act. The most common exemption used by restaurants in Alexandria is when the 'smoking section' is structurally separated and separately ventilated from the 'non-smoking section.' When a restaurant qualifies for this or another an 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. 

    See this guide or visit the  Breathe Easy website for more information about the Virginia Indoor Clean Air Act. 

    Title 11, Chapter 10 of the Code of the City of Alexandria sets ratio of smoking to non-smoking seats in a restaurant. 

    Pets and Restaurants

    If you are considering hosting a pet night at your restaurant or business, call us. You will need to apply for a variance from the food code. You must renew this each year.