Public Health

To protect and promote public health, Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) provides numerous public health services for the faculty, staff, students, volunteers and visitors at university facilities by written agreement with the Washington State Department of Health.

The EH&S Public Health Program (PHP) focuses on disease prevention through sanitation, food safety, safe water and management of pests below problem thresholds. It promotes safe and healthy environmental conditions throughout all the university campuses and remote sites to ensure that all UW occupants have a safe, healthy place to live, learn, work and play. 



EH&S oversees food-related activities at all UW locations, including the medical centers and the Bothell and Tacoma campuses, through a comprehensive food safety program for dining halls, student union retail restaurants and coffee shops. This program helps ensure that UW dining facilities meet the highest standards in serving safe, healthy and high quality food, and helps protect the public from foodborne illness. The program is customized to meet each client's specific needs and its goal is to give food service providers and groups the tools they need to meet state food safety regulations. 

Regulatory requirements apply to food sale and distribution to the public by restaurants, cafeterias, mobile food facilities, catering services and temporary event food providers. To help assure the safety of foods being offered on campus, all persons and vendors offering food must operate in compliance with the Washington State Retail Food Code.Temporary event organizers are responsible for assuring that their food vendors are aware of its requirements.  Anyone selling or distributing food on campus must obtain permission before doing so, e.g. a department’s sponsorship and EH&S approval. 

The food safety program includes:

  • Food safety and sanitation audits of food establishments
  • EH&S regulatory compliance review, interpretation and recommendations
  • Food-related complaint investigation and follow-up 
  • Plan review and consultation for campus food service establishments under remodel or new construction
  • Sports concession vendor food activities 

For further information, contact a public health advisor at . 



EH&S permits and regularly inspects all UW permanent food facilities to ensure that they maintain the highest standards of safe food handling and cleanliness as set forth in the Washington State Retail Food Code.  EH&S staff evaluate food service providers and facilities’  performance by conducting from one to four audits (inspections) annually depending on menu complexity, with follow-up re-inspections if needed. This schedule meets or exceeds Washington State health regulation requirements. Audit results are reviewed with each food establishment’s management, at which time guidance is provided in order to make necessary corrections. Inspection reports are available for public review at each of the UW food facilities.

Inspector uses a thermocouple to check food temperatures



Inspectors also audit concessions at sports events to ensure proper food safety practices.  Any issues are immediately addressed with the food service provider. 








The new Husky Stadium housing numerous food concession stands



Online Applications for Temporary Food Service Permit are required for the following:

  1. Group events with food provided by a non-University caterer or supplier.
  2. Any food sold or given away to the public or general campus community (one form needed for EACH caterer/supplier)
  3. Associated Students of the University of Washington (ASUW) clubs preparing food (must be done in an approved facility by permitted food handlers)

If food is prepared or served in a booth, also submit the Additional Booth Requirements (pdf) form.  Please read the Food Service Criteria and ensure you and/or your caterer adhere to the University's food service standards.  Read the Barbecue Focus Sheet (pdf) if you are planning a barbecue, as it describes fire code requirements and food safety issues for such events.

Submit completed application(s) to EH&S ten days before an event, in one of the following ways:

  • Apply online (highly recommended)
  • Mailed to Box 354400, Seattle WA 98195-4400, Attn: Temp. Food Event
  • Outbreaks often occur in close groups of people: ships, lodges, schools, institutions, dormitories
If you are uncertain how much information to provide contact the EH&S public health advisors at 206-616-1623 or by email:






UW Temporary Food Service Events

Booth Handwash Station






Reports related to suspected foodborne illness or food service operations on campus will be investigated by the program’s public health advisors, who will check out the report’s circumstances and assist with problem resolution.  If you think you might have been made sick by food prepared at a UW food service, please report it to the public health advisors at 206-543-7209 or 206-616-1623.  Because of the need for haste, we ask you to call; a phone interview allows us to discuss the circumstances of your illness while memory is fresh and questionable food may still be on sale so that it can be withdrawn from service if indicated.

If you witness possible unsafe food handling practices or unclean conditions at a food establishment, please contact us immediately. All reports to EH&S are kept confidential.




EH&S reviews plans before construction of new facilities or remodel of existing ones to facilitate code compliance and smooth operation, ability to clean, safe equipment, etc.  All plans for new and remodeled food service establishments, including espresso carts, must be submitted to EH&S for review and approval.  This also applies to leased facilities and major equipment alterations.

For any questions or concerns about this process, please call the UW public health advisors at 206-616-1623 or 206-543-7209.


The food safety program monitors federal and state government information networks for food recalls pertaining to foods distributed in Washington. This information is forwarded to UW community food partners by email, Monday through Friday during business hours, as it is released. If you are a UW food partner and have not received recall notifications and want them, please let us know at .





If you find an object or substance in your food that should not be there, save the foreign object or substance and give it to the food service's manager.  Also, complete the top portion of a Foreign Object Report (pdf).

EH&S will then investigate the object or substance for identity and origin.  You may also call 206-616-1623 or 206-543-7209 to report the problem. 

If the object or substance injured you, ask the manager for an Incident/Accident/Injury Form (pdf) as well and do one of the following:

  1. Mail it to EH&S Public Health Program, UW Box 354400, Seattle WA 98195-4400
  2. Scan and e-mail it to 
  3. Bring it to Hall Health Center 440 

For food quality complaints, contact the food service manager and/or complete a feedback form found in all major food services.




Because failure to properly maintain aquatic facility sanitation can allow spread of waterborne diseases or cause injuries, EH&S regularly inspects the UW’s swimming pools and spas. 

All UW pool operators are certified by a national swimming pool/spa agency.  Both swimming pools are monitored 24/7 by computerized monitors that can be read onsite or remotely.

Water samples are tested quarterly. Quality parameters include bacterial counts, free chlorine and pH among others.  Water quality, recirculation equipment and safety features of each pool are evaluated during quarterly inspections.  Follow-up inspections are conducted if major problems are noted and need correction.  Questions or concerns regarding UW’s aquatic facility health or safety should be directed to the public health advisors at 206-616-1623 or 206-543-7209.





EH&S does telephone interviews and site visits if thought necessary, following UW community member complaints to assure that drinking water quality meets all state and federal standards.  

If you notice water coming out of a drinking fountain or sink with an off-taste or unusual color or odor, call the public health advisors at 206-543-7209 or 206-616-1623. A detailed description of the problem is a great help, as the more accurately a problem is described, the faster a safety determination can be achieved.

Most often, campus water "problems" are simple maintenance issues without health consequences.  The most common complaint is a yellowish cloudiness caused by rust particles and sediment, which brings an accompanying off-taste.  Fill a jar or beaker with water and let it settle overnight.  In the morning, the water may be clear but have a brownish residue clumping in the bottom of the vessel.   This is only rust and a normal occurrence in buildings with iron pipes; it does not hurt people and is not a problem.  

Cloudy water emerging from a faucet is the other common complaint.  To help find the cause, fill a clear container with it and let it sit a few minutes.  If the water clears from the bottom toward the top, the cause is air compressed into the water, probably due to some recent plumbing work on the pipes; this is not a problem and the cloudiness will disappear in a short time.

The third most common complaint is a seasonal “swampy"? taste and odor, which occurs in late summer or early autumn due to Seattle’s use of surface water sources when the reservoirs have warmed up.  Geosamin, the same chemical which gives beets their taste, is the cause and is not harmful.  


However, if you notice a chemical odor (e.g., like  xylene) or unusual color (pink, red or excessively cloudy) in your water, try to collect a sample in a clean glass container and call the public health advisors immediately at 206-616-1623 or 206-543-7209. They will investigate and determine what action, if any, is needed to find the cause and correct the problem.




Insects, rodents and other life forms try to make their homes on and in UW buildings.  As a recognized leader in innovative academic institution pest management, EH&S is committed to practicing safe and effective pest control.  Our goal is to safeguard human and animal health and UW property, and inform and educate our community on environmentally sensitive pest control.  The UW practices Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to minimize chemical use and maximize safety.

If you have a pest concern, we suggest that you attempt to characterize it as either simple, where the pest carries no disease and does not attack humans, or urgent, where a pest might carry disease, bite or sting.  An example of a simple concern would be silverfish in an office; an urgent concern could be a swarm of  honeybees near a sidewalk, a yellow jacket nest in a window frame, possible bedbugs or a rat discovered running around in an office.  We respond to all requests for assistance in a timely manner through a pest control contractor who serves the main campus daily five days a week and is available for emergency situations.

For free pest problem service, complete the Pest Sighting Report and click "Send Form."  Report as many significant details about the observation as possible, especially the pest's exact location, activities, etc.  Service will be provided as soon as possible or the next service day depending on the problem; you may also call to arrange a suitable time.

Please report urgent pest problems to EH&S at 206-616-1623 or 206-543-7209. Your concern will be evaluated and prioritized, and service will be arranged as soon as possible.

If you fail to receive service, have concerns with what was provided or need follow-up, call the public health advisors for assistance.

For bedbug information and procedures, see Bedbugs and Their Control.


Injured, sick or dead animals and birds on campus should be reported to EH&S at 206-616-1623 or 206-543-7209 for proper attention year around.  Attempts will be made to obtain assistance for sick and injured wildlife, and dead animals and birds will be disposed of properly. 

Off-campus July 15–October 15 only: if you notice dead crows, jays or other birds, if they are 1) fresh (dead less than 24 hours) and 2) clearly not road kills or window hits, report them to the State Health Department on its website:  for possible West Nile Virus testing




EH&S provides the following public health outreach services:

  • General consultation on sanitation and safety plus a wide range of topics, e.g, influenza
  •  Environmental health information presentations at meetings and public forums
  • Liaison with other agencies and jurisdictions to receive, screen or share current information regarding environmental health
  • Handouts on a variety of subjects

If you need a speaker to present information to a group on a public health-related topic, contact the public health advisors at 206-616-1623 or 206-543-7209.




The 2013 West Nile Virus season is over until about July, 2014, when this section will be updated.   There were two confirmed human West Nile Virus (WNV) cases caught in Washington in 2013.

WNV was introduced into North America in 2002 and has moved from the East Coast to the West Coast since then.  The virus is lethal to most birds and occasionally humans.  It is spread by mosquitoes that bite an infected bird and then also bite an animal or human.  Mosquitoes that bite both birds and humans are the most dangerous, and people should make sure that they do not allow standing water pools on their property in which they can breed, e.g., flower pots, tires, buckets and similar containers, etc.

Due to budget constraints, testing of crows, jays and other bird species will not be up to the level of previous years when dead birds, trapped mosquitoes and sentinel chicken flocks were routinely checked for WNV presence, but there is expected to be funding for limited testing this summer.  Historically, a viral presence in these groups meant human cases would appear soon, so come July, people should report all dead birds to EH&S at 206-616-1623 or 206-543-7209 if on campus, and the State Health Department Dead Bird Hot- line if off campus.

In the absence of local data, the best advice continues to be to protect yourself from mosquito bites because it is impossible to estimate the odds of an infected mosquito biting a person.

Protect yourself and avoid being bitten by:

  • Excluding mosquitoes from your house and sleeping place
  • Not being outdoors at times when mosquitoes are hungry and biting (usually around dusk and dawn)
  • Using mosquito repellent and wearing clothes with long sleeves and long pants when outdoors
  • Eliminating standing water mosquito breeding sites around your residence: plastic or other buckets and containers, jars, flower pot bases, tires, bird baths or any vessel that holds water.  These provide mosquitoes places to lay eggs, and in hot weather it only takes a week before eggs will have turned into adults and flown away to look for a blood meal, hopefully not you! 



    How West Nile Virus is transmitted

For additional information about public health topics, please contact the EH&S public health advisors.

Abebe Aberra:  aberra@uw.edu206-616-1623


Charles Easterberg: or 206-543-7209