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Page updated Oct 9, 2015 3:46 PM

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Food Safety Program

The Food Safety Program is the Environmental Health Division's largest program. It issues permits, completes plan reviews, investigates complaints and does inspections at any location serving food to the public.  This includes restaurants, cafeterias, caterers, grocery stores, festivals, farmers markets, etc.

Contact Information

Phone: 703.746.4910
Fax: 703.746.4919
Address: 4480 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22302
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. 

Food Protection Manager

What is a Food Protection Manager?

A Food Protection Manager, or FPM, is the person that supervises food safety operations at food facilities to reduce the spread of foodborne illness.  FPMs must:

  • Have the authority to train, monitor and direct other employees
  • Pass an accredited food safety exam every five years
  • Get a Northern Virginia FPM photo identification card from ORS Interactive
  • Demonstrate knowledge (.pdf) of food safety during a health inspection 

In restaurants, the FPM is usually a manager, chef, or cook. In a grocery store or other retail store, the FPM is usually a store or department manager. 

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Accredited Exams 

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

To take an exam, find a location by contacting any of the companies above. Exam fees vary by the location and company. Preparation courses cost extra. You are not required to take a preparation course to be a FPM, but it is recommended.

Visit for more information about the Conference of Food Protection.

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Get a Northern Virginia FPM Photo ID Card

  1. Identify what kind of card (limited or full) you will need; most will need a full. Call 703.746.4910 for help.
  2. Take and pass an accredited exam. Some companies offer a preparation course and exam together, for a fee. A course is not required, but is recommended.
  3. Visit ORS Interactive to get your photo identification card. You must bring proof of passing your exam, the $45 card fee, and anything else ORS Interactive needs. Usually, your card is issued the same day. You must go in person, as your picture will be taken. 

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ORS Interactive

  • ORS interactive is located at 6066 Leesburg Pike, Suite 200-B, Falls Church, VA 22041
  • Call 703.533.7600 or visit for business hours, email, fax, or other information.

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Food Service Employee Health Policy

The purpose of our Food Code is to reduce the spread of foodborne illnesses.  The Food Protection Managers and other employees can do this by understanding their responsibilities for reporting illnesses and prevent potential exposures. The following are guides and example forms food businesses can use too meet our Food Code.

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Food Safety Resources & Training

The Health Department receives numerous requests for information about an array of food safety topics.

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Food Safety Education Month

September is National Food Safety Education Month.  For more information or training materials, visit:

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Notice of Violations (Tickets)

If you or your business was issued a civil penalty for violating our Food Code, see the back of your Notice of Violation (example). It explains your options and next steps. Note that:

  • Civil penalties are paid at 301 King Street. 
  • If you disagree with the violation, you must contact the Health Department within 10 days of the violation.

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Food Safety Inspections

View an Inspection Report
View routine inspections of restaurants and mobile food vendors (food trucks) here. For other inspections, contact the City Attorney's Office to make a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

What Does EH Inspect? 
Our staff performs inspections at locations permitted by the Health Department. These facilities include restaurants, bakeries, caterers, commissaries, public and private school kitchens, delicatessens, mobile food vendors (food trucks), nursing homes, hospitals, festivals and grocery stores.  We sometimes provide courtesy inspections for other agencies (ig. USDA, Social Services, etc.).  We evaluate food operations using the City's Food Code.

Inspection Types & Frequencies
The Environmental Health field staff conduct several types of inspections, including:

  • Routine
  • Risk Assessment
  • Training
  • Complaint
  • Follow-up
  • Courtesy
  • Pre-opening

All inspections are unannounced except for the pre-opening and training inspections. 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: 

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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.   If You See Something, Say Something!TM 

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Smoking Legislation

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.


Doggie Dining

If you are considering hosting a pet night at your restaurant or business, contact our office first. You must apply for a variance from the food code. This variance must be renewed each year.