More Canberra eateries than ever failed hygiene checks in the same year the ACT government ditched its proposal for “scores on doors” restaurant safety ratings.
Markus Mannheim of The Canberra Times writes that in the past year, three in every 10 inspections found failures to comply with public health laws, twice as many as the government’s target maximum failure rate.
The result – the worst the Health Directorate has reported – included inspections of other types of premises, such as pharmacies, but the government said most failures related to unsafe food practices.
It was the fifth consecutive year in which inspection pass rates fell well below the official target of 85 per cent.
However, industry group Restaurants and Catering Australia says the result shows that inspections are now tougher, not that hygiene practices are worse.
Its chief executive, John Hart, said the ACT’s worst food-poisoning cases had involved raw-egg products, such as mayonnaise, which inspections would not have prevented.
It would have prevented them if inspectors told restaurants, don’t be a dumb-ass and use raw eggs in a dish meant for many.
But that would have raised the ire of industry.
Government is no better, with Assistant Health Minister Meegan Fitzharris’s spokeswoman saying some failures were for “smaller things, like a battery not in a thermometer.”
It’s not a useful f*cking thermometer without a battery, but that would depend on someone actually using the thermometer, which the vast majority of Australians don’t.
The government pledged five years ago to crack down on unhygienic restaurants in the wake of Canberra Times reports on laws that prevented dirty eateries from being identified.
However, few changes have been introduced since, other than new requirements for staff training and a register of convictions for the most serious food-safety breaches.
The register lists very few breaches and only identifies the businesses years after an offence, often after the eatery closes or has new owners.
The now-closed Copa Brazilian restaurant in Dickson, for example, where a salmonella outbreak poisoned more than 160 people three years ago, was never listed on the register, as the matter remains before court.
By contrast, several jurisdictions internationally, including British councils, publish all health inspection reports.
However, industry groups – such as the hotels association, ClubsACT and the food and grocery council – opposed the policy and the government abandoned the idea last year. Labor and the Greens had voiced support for the scheme before the 2012 election, while the Liberals had questioned the need for it.
Mr Hart, of Restaurants and Catering Australia, said the past year’s poor compliance result was simply the result of tougher inspections following high-profile salmonella outbreaks in recent years, such as at The Copa.
“They’re certainly going to much greater lengths to determine compliance. And I think this [latest result] reflects not a decrease in the standards of food safety but an increase in the penetration of the assessment,” he said.
“So we’re in fact not getting worse; we’re just seeing more technical breaches being considered a non-compliance.”
Restaurant owners in Canberra, your trade organization and governments are failing you, yet they’ll still have jobs if your business is hit with foodborne illness. The best always have, and always will, go beyond the minimal standards of government to inspire confidence, so that consumers might spend money in your shop. Take matters into your own (washed) hands rather than bear witness to the rise of idiocracy.