Alberta restaurant owner barred for three years

An Edmonton restaurant owner has been banned from being a part of the food industry for three years because of repeated food safety violations.

The owner-operator of China BBQ, 57-year-old John Zee Ng, repeatedly stored barbecued meat and other foods at improper temperatures and spent more time in concealing the illegal practice from inspectors. This was Ng’s fourth related conviction. He along with his wife and son and his Company were fined a record $51,520 in 2008.

Closed means closed: Alberta hotel, employees fined for ignoring closure order

The Delta Edmonton Centre Suite Hotel is a nice enough place. I stayed there a while ago, in February, and I’ve never been so cold in my life. Look at a map. Saskatoon was almost as cold but Edmonton is farther north.

Not so sure about the food safety culture, after the owner, the head chef, and the food and beverage director were hit with fines Friday totaling $15,000 for operating its kitchen despite a closure order.

The Edmonton Sun reports that provincial court Judge Paul Sully said,

“I recognize that food preparation is a very serious matter on the one hand and, on the other hand, I recognize this was a result of a fire and will not likely happen again.”

Court heard health inspectors closed the main kitchen at the downtown hotel in October after a fire in a transformer room led to the kitchen having no running water, however staff continued to prepare meals using a board room.

A health inspector discovered kitchen staff were cooking meat dishes in the fifth-floor boardroom using roasters and had crock pots containing prepared rice dishes.

Court heard the conditions were not sanitary, there were issues with food temperatures, there was no liquid soap or paper towels for hand washing and there was no equipment for cleaning or sanitizing utensils and other items.

Alberta Health Services prosecutor Rob O’Neill said,

“Closed means closed. When the health department shuts you down, you don’t go behind their back and operate somewhere else.”

Alberta sets provincewide standards for restaurants and inspection disclosure

One year after a three-part investigation by the Edmonton Journal, Karen Kleiss reports this morning that the number of compulsory restaurant closures is up, health regions across the province have adopted minimum standards, and all Albertans can expect to have online access to inspection results by July 1.

Capital Health Authority spokesman Steve Buick, referring to lessons learned after last year’s complaints by the public and provincial auditor general, said,

"We think generally the system has served people well, but it needed upgrading in a few key respects, and certainly the disclosure issue is one of them. We get that the public wants to see more information. … It needs to be more transparent, and it will be."

Health Minister Dave Hancock has ordered all Alberta health regions to adopt uniform risk assessment and management standards, and he wants all Alberta health regions to come up with a plan to make restaurant inspection reports available online.

Robert Bradbury, director of public health for the Calgary Health Region, said,

"We will move as close to complete disclosure as we possibly can. It’s all about choice. The more information the dining public has, the better prepared they are to make that choice."

Another convert. Now, what is the most effective and meaningful way to communicate the results of restaurant inspections?

Last year, The Journal put a searchable database of restaurant inspections on the website. It received more than 500,000 hits.