Strengthening Equity Through Food Safety


Impact Statement: 
The Whatcom County Health department found that language and cultural barriers were contributing to higher numbers of critical Food Code violations for the almost 18% of non-English and ESL food service operators in Level 3 establishments in the County. The department considered the food service operators as “customers”; determined that lack of understanding of the food code was the root cause; and is now testing the impact of providing the materials in 8 different languages on the number of critical Food Code violations.

In 2014, Whatcom County Health Department's (WCHD's) Food Safety Program developed a quality improvement (QI) project to improve communication with non-English-speaking or English as a Second Language (ESL) food service operators in the community. The project team sought to improve communication with these operators.

Initially, the project team analyzed quantitative data and collected and summarized "voice of the customer" data by conducting 16 interviews with food service operators in languages other than English. The project team found that 17.8% of the Level 3 food establishments have non-English-speaking or ESL operators. In addition, 50% of those interviewed indicated that language creates barriers that make it difficult for the operator or staff to comply with the food code or understand the food inspectors' instructions.

The project team is currently implementing these interventions and collecting data to determine whether the QI interventions improve the success of non-English-speaking and ESL food service operators in complying with the food code, thus reducing red violation points in Level 3 food operations.

Organization that conducted the QI initiative: 

Sloan, S. Public Health Quality Improvement Exchange. Strengthening Equity Through Food Safety. Fri, 08/14/2015 - 14:28. Available at Accessed December 7, 2023.

Submission Status: 
In Progress
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