Health inspections are not easy

The field of public health inspection is not easy; it is a difficult job, yet gratifying. I remember inspecting restaurants that were notorious for non-compliance and trying to work with them to improve their food safety behaviors. I believed in quality inspections and not quantity as health inspections are essentially a snap shot in time and I wanted to make a difference.

Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t and it is frustrated when you feel like you haven’t made a difference. So I get the ideology of fines as a method to increase compliance.
But do fines actually work or is it the cost of doing business for some operators? What will the establishment look like in a month or two, did we influence change or not? I have done this in the past where I charged a facility for a number of significant non-conformance’s and they subsequently cleaned up, but a month later, they regressed to the same state that I initially found them. Our department did not have a risk-based approach at that time and so the operator wasn’t expecting me for another year…surprise…

It is all about behavior and behavior change.

The owner of an East Tilbury sandwich bar has been slapped with a fine of almost two-and-a-half thousand pounds.
The owner of Nancy’s Sandwich Bar has been ordered to pay £2,353 for failure to comply with food safety legislation.
Daniel Wood appeared at Basildon Magistrates on Monday July 24, 2017 and pleaded guilty to 11 food hygiene offences, following a visit by Thurrock Council’s food safety team in September last year.
Inspectors visited the premises and found a makeshift kitchen had been set up in a room previously used for storage without consideration to food hygiene or public safety.
As a result, the food outlet was rated with a ‘1’ on the Food Standards Agency’s food hygiene rating scheme.
But the owner has since made improvements and the bar’s rating has gone up to ‘4’.
The bar was fined £1,230 and ordered to pay £1,000 costs and £123 victim surcharge.
Portfolio Holder for Neighbourhoods, Cllr Sue MacPherson said: “During the visit, the premises and equipment were found in a filthy condition, but I am pleased to see that improvements have since been made.”


Will your home kitchen pass a health inspection? Kitchen crimes (mini version)

In light of the recent reports on whether or not your home kitchen would pass a health inspection, I was asked by City TV in Winnipeg to comment and perform an inspection in a home kitchen. In reality, one cannot compare a restaurant inspection to a home inspection as there are a myriad of differences a health inspector would look for in a restaurant; most home kitchens would most certainly fail. In the home, it is more prudent to look at proper food handling and food preparation practices, that is, the use of digital tip sensitive thermometers, proper hand washing, and so on. Below is the link to my interview. 

Run, it’s the health inspector

The last thing I want to do is shut a restaurant down during the Christmas season but when one encounters multiple critical food violations, my hands are tied. An immediate closure was issued on a local restaurant due to improper food holding temperatures, inadequate dishwashing as pots/pans were merely rinsed with water, potential cross contamination issues in the cooler, and the list continues. It is important to note that there was a manger on duty that had successfully completed the food handlers’ course and would therefore in theory be aware of these critical issues. At any rate, I rolled up my sleeves, threw on my hair net and proceeded to physically show the foodservice staff how to properly wash pots/pans via the 3 compartment sink method. Also went over ice baths to rapidly cool foods, preparing sanitizer solutions, and how to use a digital tip sensitive thermometer, supplied by me of course because they didn’t have one. After training on-site, it was up to the staff to show me what they have learned without sitting down and writing an exam, which I feel is pointless.

            A number of Health Departments are consistently struggling with staffing issues resulting in less than par health inspections. I would rather spend the time and perform a quality health inspection by incorporating on-site training rather than being concerned with the quantity of restaurants inspected. 

Health inspector charged with bribery

The Toronto star writes:

A City of Toronto health inspector charged with trying to extort $1,400 from a married couple running a bar will testify it was the husband who suggested a bribe, his lawyer says.

"His evidence will be that it was (bar owner) Mr. Kang who proposed the whole scheme," defence lawyer Daniel Kirby told Justice Gary Trotter on Wednesday.

Hong Hai Kang, co-owner of the Weston Rd. bar, broached the topic of a payoff with health inspector Kerry Wong to stave off negative food safety reports in the hopes it would "assuage his wife’s concerns that he was letting his business go to pot," Kirby told the judge.

Wong, 44, has pleaded not guilty to two counts of extortion. He lost his job after he was charged. He is expected to testify Thursday.

Is it really worth it? Come on.

Barth and the Health Inspector featuring Alanis Morissette

Canadian actor Les Lye passed away in July at the age of 84, but Don Scaffner just sent me his classic bit, Barth and the Health Inspector featuring Alanis Morissette, from the Ottawa kids TV show, You Can’t Do That On Television.

For those unfamiliar, the premise of every Barth sketch is as follows: Barth is the proprietor of a burger joint, Barth’s Burgers, frequented by the show’s cast presumably by government mandate as Canada, of course, is widely known for its socialized burger program. The burgers are of such vile quality that the kids are compelled to speculate as to the source of the eponymous meat, to which the ill-sanitized restauranteur responds “D’Iyyyyyyye heard that!” then betrays his recipe as being primarily human-based. Then everyone vomits theatrically and with exaggerated gesticulations.

Looks good on the outside, not so much inside

And no I am not talking about Johnny Depp. Time and time again food safety communicators promote the use of digital tip sensitive thermometers to determine doneness of food. But how often is this practice being done in restaurants? If so, is it being done correctly? From my experience, it seems that restaurant operators depend on color far too often and the operators that use thermometers do not use them correctly. This simply boils down to a need of properly train staff. It is imperative that front line food service staff are physically shown how to correctly use thermometers rather than just explaining the concept and theory behind it. Health inspectors, in particular, must take the time during routine inspections to demonstrate the proper usage of thermometers and compel restaurant managers to train their staff accordingly.

There have been too many cases of raw chicken burgers being served to the public and ultimately making people barf.  At times, food service staff are stressed and end up getting food orders wrong and are therefore rushed to correct the problem. In doing so, corners are cut resulting in burgers not being cooked long enough. Take the time to properly cook chicken burgers and remember stick it in.



Buyer beware

Some people will do anything for a quick buck. Fake health inspectors in the Greater Toronto Area have been targeting mom and pop food stores in purchasing food safety tests. If managers do not comply, they would be faced with severe health code violations. Now I have heard everything. Health inspectors are required to present valid identification prior to inspecting an establishment. If something does not look right, contact your local health authority.  Food and water tests should also be performed in an accredited laboratory and not on site.


The Toronto Star writes this morning Mom-and-pop food stores and restaurants across the GTA are being scammed by fake health inspectors pushing unnecessary food and water tests, authorities say.


Dozens of convenience store and restaurant owners, most of them new Canadians, have told Peel, Halton and Toronto health departments that they were contacted by a "food and water safety technician" wanting to sell them $30 to $40 safety tests.


The so-called technicians reportedly say the tests are mandatory, and hand out what looks like "old meat plant inspection forms" from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, said Matt Ruf, Halton Region’s manager of food safety.


Halton and Toronto officials said the people typically identify themselves as representatives of the Canadian Food Safety Institute or the Canadian Food Safety Resource Centre, which the institute founded according to the website


The CFSI "is not an agency we would deal with," said Rob Colvin, manager of healthy environments for Toronto Public Health.


So far, only a handful of business owners – including two in Toronto – have paid for the tests, officials said.


The cases started emerging first in Peel and Halton in mid-January, then in Toronto about three weeks ago, Colvin said.


Jalal Hadibhai, who owns the Down Under convenience store in Yorkville, said a woman called Monday, saying she would send a technician the next day to perform E.coli tests in the store.


She wanted $39.95 in cash or cheque, he said.


Hadibhai called Toronto Public Health to ask if the tests were legitimate and was told no, he said.


In the end, no one came to the store.


"I would have asked for I.D.," the store owner said. "I would never give them cash."


Sgt. Brian Carr said Halton police are looking for a woman who attempted to sell the tests in a Hasty Market in Oakville yesterday.


She allegedly told the manager that without the tests he could face fines for health code violations.


The woman presented a business card indicating she was from the CFSRC, police said. The organization has addresses in Mississauga and Ottawa.


"There’s no such unit out there," Carr said. Messages left for the CEO of the safety institute were not returned.


A toll-free number listed on both organizations’ websites is out of order.


It’s unclear how many people are involved, but "it seems there’s a whole team of people out there," said Colvin.


Mark Nesbitt, spokesperson for the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long- Term Care, said restaurant and store health inspections lie "entirely in the hands of local public health units."


Any private inspections purchased by business owners would be non- binding and, he added: "Buyer beware."