The next time you walk into a Hamilton restaurant, have a look at the front door or window. There’s a new, more colourful food safety inspection disclosure program being rolled out throughout the city this year.
Before 2014, restaurants would receive a green certificate to hang in their window if they passed a health inspection. However, the city had no way of indicating to the public if there were health or cleanliness issues inside short of pulling down that certificate — something most customers wouldn’t notice.
Now, whenever a public health inspector visits a restaurant for an inspection, it receives one of three certificates, depending on cleanliness and safety: green for a pass, yellow for a conditional pass and red for a fail, which means the business must close.
Similar systems have existed in the GTA and Halton regions for years, and Hamilton has been playing catch up. As part of the new program, the city has launched a website where people can check a restaurant’s health and safety inspection records.
These measures were taken to create a more effective way of disclosing food safety to the public, says Richard MacDonald, the city food safety manager.
The city performs between 400 to 450 health inspections in restaurants a month, broken down between high, medium and low risk establishments.
The city’s new colour coded system was first implemented on Jan. 1, and since it was ushered in, inspectors have issued 16 yellow cards for critical infractions and three red cards for closures – which is about average in the city, MacDonald says.
The three red cards were handed out to companies that had no hot water, because of frozen or burst pipes during January’s intense cold.
In 2012, 231 green pass cards were removed from restaurants, compared to 192 in 2013.
MacDonald says that according to inspector feedback, restaurant operators are heeding the new system. “They’re paying attention,” he said. “They don’t want to be wearing their reputation on the front door,” he said.