Overview of the Disclosure System
Responsibility for retail food safety
All food business establishments must operate according to the minimum requirements of the Ontario Food Premises Regulation (O. Reg. 562) under the Health Protection and Promotion Act. It is the responsibility of food business operators to know and comply with the regulation at all times. Public Health Inspectors regularly inspect food business establishments to assess if they are being operated according to the requirements in the regulation.
Why is a Food Premises Disclosure System needed?
The system has many benefits for the public and food business operators. It is intended to improve food safety standards, reduce the risk of foodborne illness, and raise consumer awareness of food safety.
Research has demonstrated that disclosure systems improve compliance with food safety legislation and enhance food safety standards in retail food business establishments.
How does the Food Premises Disclosure System work?
This system applies to food business establishments operating within the EOHU catchment area. The system requires the posting of a green, yellow or red sign based on the results of the most recent food safety inspection.
The Food Premises Disclosure System is based on compliance with the Ontario Food Premises Regulation which sets a minimum objective standard by which to measure performance. While compliance with the regulation is a measure of the risk of foodborne illness, one food handling mistake in even the best operated food establishment can lead to foodborne illness. The operator of every food business establishment is responsible for knowing the risks associated with foodborne illness and for taking action in his or her establishment to minimize these risks.
When a Public Health Inspector visits your establishment, he/she will assess if your operation meets the requirements of the Ontario Food Premises Regulation and then complete a food safety inspection report. You will receive a printed copy of the report at the end of the inspection.
The disclosure system is designed to provide information to the public on inspection results. Currently, a summary of the inspection findings, charges and convictions for all food business establishments in the EOHU region is available online at www.eohu.ca/inspections.
Starting in the fall of 2015, when a Public Health Inspector visits your establishment, you will receive one of three colour-coded EOHU Inspection signs.
The signs provide a summary of inspection results, and are colour-coded to indicate the following:
- Pass (GREEN) Sign – Full or substantial compliance with the Ontario Food Premises Regulation.
- Conditional Pass (YELLOW) Sign - Significant non-compliance with the Ontario Food Premises Regulation which may affect food safety (immediate threats to food safety must be eliminated at the time of inspection and will be assessed again).
- Closed (RED) Sign - Immediate health hazard to the general public.
The EOHU will provide a sign holder for every food establishment, on a one-time basis. We are asking you to post the most recent EOHU Inspection sign in the sign holder near the main public entrance to the establishment until another inspection is conducted, and a new sign provided. All signs are the property of the EOHU and must be returned to the Public Health Inspector when a new sign is provided or when the establishment closes. In the event that the sign is damaged or goes missing, the operator must notify the EOHU immediately and a sign may be re-issued.
Infractions: critical vs. non-critical
Each infraction of the Ontario Food Premises Regulation is categorized as either critical or non-critical.
Critical infractions are infractions that have the potential to pose an immediate public health risk and/or lead to a health hazard (e.g. improper cold/hot holding temperatures).
Non-critical items are infractions that do not pose an immediate health risk, and by themselves are not likely to lead to a foodborne illness, and/or do not relate directly to food handling practices (e.g. structural design of floors or walls).
Correction of infractions and legal action
When infractions are observed in a food business establishment, it is the responsibility of the operator to ensure that they are corrected as soon as possible. Items directly related to food safety must be corrected by the operator at the time of inspection and will be assessed again during a re-inspection. There is no fee for inspections; however, non-compliance may result in legal action being initiated, which can result in fines.
Public Health Inspectors at the Eastern Ontario Health Unit are designated Provincial Offences Officers. This means that they have the authority to issue tickets or summonses when infractions are observed.
Frequency of inspections
Public Health Inspectors are required to complete a risk assessment of all food establishments at least once per year to determine the frequency of inspections. Inspections may be conducted a minimum of once, twice or three times per year, depending on the factors listed below.
A) Three inspections per year
Establishments receiving at least three inspections per year include full menu establishments with the following characteristics:
- Daily preparation of large volumes of hazardous foods.
- Preparation of foods that involve multiple preparation steps (e.g. defrosting, cooking, cooling, storing, reheating, preparing, hot holding, slicing, de-boning, mixing, serving).
- Establishments associated in the past with foodborne illness.
- Establishments serving high-risk populations, such as hospitals, daycares, etc.
B) Two inspections per year
Establishments receiving at least two inspections per year include those that:
- Prepare hazardous foods without meeting the criteria outlined in A above, or
- Prepare non-hazardous foods with extensive handling and/or high volume of patrons.
C) One inspection per year
Establishments receiving at least one inspection per year include those that:
- Serve prepackaged hazardous foods, or
- Prepare and/or serve non-hazardous foods without meeting the criteria outlined in B above, or
- Are a food storage facility for non-hazardous foods only, and/or
- Have public health concerns that relate primarily to sanitation and maintenance.
In any of these categories, additional inspections may be conducted as follow-up to an inspection, a complaint, food recall or other issues.
How to prepare for the new inspection signage system
The EOHU encourages all operators of food business establishments to thoroughly review this Guide and the Operator Checklist. It is important that you understand and follow the requirements of the Ontario Food Premises Regulation.
All food business establishments in the Eastern Ontario Health Unit region will receive this Operator Information Guide, the Operator Checklist and a sign holder. Once your establishment has been inspected, a Public Health Inspector will issue a coloured EOHU Inspection sign based on the inspection results.
PASS (GREEN) SIGN
What does it mean?
A PASS sign posted at the entrance of a food business establishment indicates full or substantial compliance with the requirements of the Ontario Food Premises Regulation was observed on the inspection date noted on the sign.
What does substantial compliance mean?
Substantial compliance with the Ontario Food Premises Regulation means that:
- Minimum standards of the Ontario Food Premises Regulation have been met.
- Fewer than three non-critical infractions were noted, or infractions noted were corrected during the inspection.
- Food operation is unlikely to cause an immediate risk to public health.
- Correction of any infractions noted is the responsibility of the operator and must be made as soon as possible.
Examples of minor infractions
- Hair restraints are not worn by food handlers while they are handling food.
- No test kit or supply of test strips to check the sanitizer concentration in automatic dishwashers is available.
- Garbage has not been removed to maintain the establishment in a sanitary condition.
When would my establishment be re-inspected?
Follow-up inspections will take place at the discretion of the Public Health Inspector. Minor non-compliance observed in an establishment receiving a PASS sign can often be followed up during the next regular inspection.
What type of legal action can be expected?
The appropriate legal action will be initiated at the discretion of the Public Health Inspector. Minor infractions, especially those seen repetitively or frequently, may result in the issuance of Provincial Offence Notices (tickets). The maximum set fine per offence is $370.
CONDITIONAL PASS (YELLOW) SIGN
What does it mean?
A CONDITIONAL PASS sign will be issued when significant non-compliance with the Ontario Food Premises Regulation is observed during an inspection. To avoid a closure order being issued, immediate threats to food safety must be addressed to the satisfaction of the Public Health Inspector during the inspection. A CONDITIONAL PASS indicates that the premises may not be operating according to the Ontario Food Premises Regulation in between inspections.
What does significant non-compliance mean?
Significant non-compliance with the Food Premises Regulation means that your establishment has:
- Three or more non-critical infractions
- One or more critical infraction(s)
Examples of critical infractions that can lead to foodborne illness:
- Hazardous foods (i.e. meat, poultry, fish, shellfish) are not cooked to the internal temperature required to kill potentially harmful bacteria.
- Food is not stored at the required temperature.
- Hazardous foods are not kept cold enough to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.
- Contamination of ready-to-eat foods with raw foods/chemicals/pesticides exists.
- Food handling staff not washing their hands prior to handling food.
- There is potential for food contamination due to the establishment being infested by insects or rodents.
- The same cutting board is used for raw food (e.g. chicken, beef, fish) and for ready-to-eat food (fruit, vegetables, salads) without being washed, rinsed and sanitized in between processes.
When will my food establishment be re-inspected?
Items that pose an immediate risk of foodborne illness must be corrected at the time of inspection. In addition, a food establishment receiving a yellow CONDITIONAL PASS sign will receive a follow-up inspection. The operator is responsible for keeping the sign posted until the Public Health Inspector provides a replacement sign at the time of the follow-up inspection.
Based on the findings of the follow-up inspection, the Public Health Inspector will issue the appropriate sign for the establishment. If the infractions have not been corrected, another yellow CONDITIONAL PASS sign will be issued, and a follow-up inspection will be conducted at the discretion of the Inspector.
What type of legal action can be expected?
When a food establishment has infractions that lead to the issuance of a yellow CONDITIONAL PASS sign, the Public Health Inspector may initiate legal action with Provincial Offence Notices (tickets). The maximum set fine per offence is $370. Crucial infractions with potential to pose an immediate public health risk and/or lead to a health hazard will result in the closure of the food business establishment.
CLOSED (RED) SIGN
What does it mean?
A red CLOSED sign is issued to the operator of a food establishment when the Public Health Inspector is of the opinion, upon reasonable and probable grounds, that an immediate health hazard exists.
Under these conditions, an order to close the establishment under Section 13 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act will be issued. A Section 13 order is issued to eliminate or decrease the effect of the health hazard. An order is a legal document. Failing to comply with an order is an offence, which upon conviction, could result in a significant fine.
What happens after my food establishment gets a CLOSED sign?
If a food establishment is issued a CLOSED sign, the operator must do the following:
- Close the food establishment and stop preparing and selling food to the public.
- Post the CLOSED sign at the front entrance to the food establishment.
- Correct the conditions listed on the closure order to remove the health hazard(s).
- Contact the Public Health Inspector for a follow-up inspection when the conditions have been removed or corrected. A follow-up inspection must be conducted prior to re-opening the establishment.
A Public Health Inspector will revoke the order and remove the CLOSED sign if the health hazard(s) have been removed or corrected. Observations made during the follow-up inspection will determine the appropriate sign for the establishment.
Examples of infractions leading to a CLOSED sign:
A health hazard can be any condition that will likely lead to foodborne illness if the condition is not corrected. Examples include:
- Establishment infested with insects or rodents, where there is evidence of food contamination and a lack of an effective pest control program to remove the infestation.
- The food establishment does not have sufficient potable water to operate in a sanitary manner.
- Sewage back-up into food preparation or storage areas.
When will my establishment be re-inspected?
The CLOSED establishment will be monitored on a daily basis by the Public Health Inspector to ensure that the establishment remains closed. The operator may contact the Public Health Inspector to arrange a re-inspection. The operator is responsible for keeping the establishment closed and keeping the CLOSED sign posted until a Public Health Inspector issues the appropriate replacement sign based on a follow-up inspection. If the infractions have not been corrected, the CLOSED sign will not be removed, and the establishment must remain closed.
The CLOSED sign will be revoked if the follow-up inspection demonstrates that the establishment is free of any health hazards.
What type of legal action can be expected?
When conditions observed at a food establishment constitute an immediate health hazard the operator may be charged. Furthermore, operators who do not comply with a closure order may be charged and summonsed to appear in court.
If the court finds the defendant guilty, an individual operator may be fined up to $5,000, and a corporation up to $25,000, for each day or part of a day on which the offence occurred.
Food Handler Certification Program
It is important to ensure that food handlers know and practise basic food safety rules. The Eastern Ontario Health Unit strongly recommends that managers and staff involved in food preparation complete food safety training through the Food Handler Certification Program. Topics covered in the training program include:
- Food safety legislation
- Introduction to food safety, microorganisms and contamination
- Understanding foodborne illness
- Receiving and storage of food
- Preparation, cooking and service
- Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) system
- Personal hygiene
- Food allergies
- Cleaning and sanitizing
- Food establishment sanitation, design and maintenance
- Pest control
At this time, the Food Handler Certification Program is not mandatory for food business establishments in the Eastern Ontario Health Unit region. However, the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care may be changing the Ontario Food Premises Regulation to require food establishments to have certified food handlers. The presence of at least one certified food handler per shift in high and medium risk retail food business establishments is a factor assessed in the inspection program.
Research has shown that food handler training is one of the most effective ways of enhancing food safety. Therefore, the EOHU strongly encourages food handlers and management staff to become certified. To register for an upcoming Food Handler Certification course, contact Health Line at 1 800 267-7120.
Food Operators Checklist
Are the minimum temperature requirements for hazardous foods (dairy, eggs, meats) being reached?
- Stored at the proper temperature
- Cold hazardous foods are 4°C (40°F) or lower
- Frozen hazardous foods are -18°C (0°F) or lower
- Hot hazardous food being hot held are 60°C (140°F) or higher
- Cooked to the proper internal temperature
- Re-heated to its initial internal temperature within 2 hours
- Cooled rapidly using recommended methods (small portions, ice bath, shallow containers)
Are foods prepared and stored in a manner which prevents contamination and adulteration?
- Raw foods are prepared and stored separately from ready-to-eat foods
- Food is protected from potential contamination (covered, off the floor, sneeze guard)
- ood contact surfaces are washed/rinsed/sanitized after each use
- Chemicals are stored separately from food
- There is a constant supply of hot and cold potable running water in food preparation areas
- High acid foods are stored in corrosion resistant containers
Is food handler hygiene a priority?
- Food handlers wash their hands prior to commencing/resuming work and after any activity where hands may become soiled
- A separate designated handwash basin is provided
- The designated handwash basin is supplied with hot and cold running water, liquid soap and paper towels
Are cleaning, sanitizing and maintenance of premises adequate?
- Proper dishwashing procedures (wash/rinse/sanitize) are followed
- Mechanical dishwasher operates properly
- An adequate supply of detergent and sanitizer is available
- Food and non-food contact surfaces are clean and in good repair
- Floors, walls and ceiling are clean and in good repair
- Adequate pest control measures are implemented
- General housekeeping is satisfactory
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