Should swimming pools have restaurant-like grades for safety? Toronto thinks so

Operators of pools, spas, hot tubs and wading pools in Toronto could soon be required to post on-site inspection notices, letting the public know if any health and safety violations have taken place.

caddyshack.pool.poop-1In 2011, the Star revealed that pool operators were racking up multiple infractions for everything from dirty water and malfunctioning equipment to missing safety gear, but those inspection results were not revealed to the public.

The news that swimmers, spa-goers and students were being put at potential risk of disease and injury prompted Councillor John Filion, then chair of the Toronto Board of Health, to call for a prominent display of proof as to whether the facilities met city standards.

On April 28, the board will consider a new proposal from the medical officer of health to determine whether the city should draft a bylaw that compelling operators of pools, public spas (hot tubs) and wading pools to post a sign or document showing inspection outcomes. The medical officer will report, with the city solicitor, on the content of the proposed bylaw.

If the board votes to proceed, the proposal will then be considered by city council on May 6. Council will make the final decision. The proposed bylaw would apply to more than 1,600 facilities.

NYC reforms restaurant inspection system following outcry

Less than a year after New York City’s letter grading system underwent a massive rehaul, the Department of Health and the City Council have announced further changes to the system.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and the DOH announced that restaurants will see a nearly 25 per cent reduction in fines associated with inspections by the agency, bringing fines back down to they were before the grading system was adopted. Piggybacking on previous revisions, violations will be given fixed penalties, leaving out room for discretionary figures calculated by inspectors.

To further reduce violations during inspections, restaurants can “request a consultative, ungraded and penalty-free inspection to receive tailored advice about maintaining the best food safety practices at their establishment.” Restaurant owners had been hiring consultants to spot problem areas and ideally prevent fines during official inspections from the agency.

Restaurant grades in Hamilton (the one in Canada)

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 rest.inspection.hamilton.feb.14there 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.

Failing food hygiene standards in Welsh primary schools, playgroups and after schools clubs

Hundreds of children and elderly people are being served “substandard” food from kitchens which have failed food hygiene inspections.

Eight primary schools, three after school clubs, four playgroups, and 10 nursery and pre-schools across Wales scored just one or two on the 0-5 rating system in the last 12 months.

Elderly people have also been affected as 30 care homes, three day centres and one living complex were also given hygiene ratings of just one or two.

If a premises drops below a rating of three, their hygiene standards are considered inadequate.

All the inspections were carried out in the last year and are the most recent published on the FSA website – but some schools may have been re-inspected since.

Grades come to Louisville food trucks; owners applaud

Max Balliet’s Holey Moley food truck has been inspected six times this year, passing the health department review without fail. Still, he hears the uninformed slights and innuendo — food trucks are dirty, messy, fly-by-night grease pits, potential salmonella breeders on wheels.

That’s why nobody is happier than Balliet that Louisville is requiring the city’s 49 registered food truck vendors to post health grades in their rest.inspec.grade.louisvillewindows.

“Being able to display our score is a good thing,” he said Monday. “Right now there’s no way for us to prove we’ve been inspected at all.”

Louisville’s Department of Public Health and Wellness has always required food trucks to follow the same health regulations as restaurants. But, until now, they haven’t had to participate in the city’s ABC Food Placard Program, the system that displays brightly colored letter grades based on cleanliness and food handling.

Food truck say the visible grades will help their credibility. “It’s going to be way better for business, for sure,” said Robb Ross, owner of French Indo-Canada Food Truck. Customers such as Donnie Guinn, who bought lunch Monday from Urban Kitchen at Bardstown Road and Midland Avenue, predicted the new rule would improve food quality in Louisville. “I think it’s a good thing, man,” he said. Skip Brewer agreed, saying he liked the idea of being able to see a score in the window the moment he walked up to order his food. “If every other place in Louisville has to have it, so should the food trucks.”

The best don’t hide; NY restaurants are still hiding their bad health department grade

Nell Casey of gothamist writes, “Like a high schooler hiding that C+ in algebra from mom and dad, many of the city’s restaurants are concealing their Health Department grade from would-be diners. The Daily News reveals that 1,356 restaurants were fined over the past year by the Health Department for camouflaging or not displaying their inspection grades. Of deceptive dining spots, 745 had received “C” grades and 581 received “B” grades, leaving 30 over-achievers hiding their “A” grades… presumably because they thought they deserved an A+?

“Knowing that some diners might pass by an establishment with a poor grade, some restaurants take the risk of fine over the potential loss of a customer. “I’d rather take the fine than place (the C) up there.” explained Thomas Mak, manager of Williamburg’s Juniper. “It would have ruined my business.” Other restaurants cited more dog-ate-my-homework excuses, like letter grades getting lost in the mail or patrons pilfering the grades from out of the windows.

“Still others refused to display their grades as a kind of protest against the grading system in general. “There are many business owners who don’t like the stigma associated with letter grades, period,” head of New York City Hospitality Alliance Andrew Regie told the News.”

‘Score-on-the-door’ food hygiene rating for SA cafes and restaurants

The state of South Australia is introducing a new “score-on-the-door” food hygiene safety rating for cafes and restaurants as the State Government overhauls the Public Health Act.

Scores on doors sounds better.

Adelaide Now reports the Government wants food businesses to adopt the system, with a score out of five displayed on a shop’s door according to its level of food-safety scores_doors_featurecompliance.

It is also planning to adopt a new statewide food safety standard and introduce a registration system for food outlets as part of the reforms.

Hundreds of outlets are caught each year for serious breaches of food hygiene standards.

Health inspectors found rotten meat, maggots in chicken stuffing, puddings with listeria and mice in pantries at cafes, restaurants and takeaway food outlets last financial year.

A parliamentary committee investigation into food safety programs last September recommended the introduction of a statewide score-on-the-door rating system.

Health Minister Jack Snelling said SA Health would work with other jurisdictions, including NSW and with local government and industry, during the development of the system.

A pilot “scores on doors” project is expected to be introduced on a voluntary basis next year. Similar schemes are running in London, Los Angeles, Singapore, Brisbane and Sydney.

But the best ones, like Los Angeles, New York City and Toronto are not voluntary; sorta defeats the purpose.

The Restaurant and Catering SA association said the score system would mean more red tape to businesses. “We would prefer to see a policy which endorses training of staff (in safety),” chief executive Sally Neville said.

Why not both?

We have some experience with restaurant inspection disclosure systems.

Filion, K. and Powell, D.A. 2009. The use of restaurant inspection disclosure systems as a means of communicating food safety information. Journal of Foodservice 20: 287-297.

The World Health Organization estimates that up to 30% of individuals in developed countries become ill from food or water each year. Up to 70% of these illnesses are estimated to be linked to food prepared at foodservice establishments. Consumer confidence in the safety of food prepared in restaurants isfragile, varying significantly from year to year, with many consumers attributing foodborne illness to foodservice. One of the key drivers of restaurant choice is consumer perception of the hygiene of a restaurant. Restaurant hygiene information is something consumers desire, and when available, may use to make dining decisions.

Filion, K. and Powell, D.A. 2011. Designing a national restaurant inspection disclosure system for New Zealand.
Journal of Food Protection 74(11): 1869-1874

The World Health Organization estimates that up to 30% of individuals in developed countries become ill from contaminated food or water each year, and up to 70% of these illnesses are estimated to be linked to food service facilities. The aim of restaurant inspections is to reduce foodborne outbreaks and enhance consumer confidence in food service. Inspection disclosure systems have been developed as tools for consumers and incentives for food service operators. Disclosure systems are common in developed ny_rest_inspect_disclosure_0_storycountries but are inconsistently used, possibly because previous research has not determined the best format for disclosing inspection results. This study was conducted to develop a consistent, compelling, and trusted inspection disclosure system for New Zealand. Existing international and national disclosure systems were evaluated. Two cards, a letter grade (A, B, C, or F) and a gauge (speedometer style), were designed to represent a restaurant’s inspection result and were provided to 371 premises in six districts for 3 months. Operators (n = 269) and consumers (n = 991) were interviewed to determine which card design best communicated inspection results. Less than half of the consumers noticed cards before entering the premises; these data indicated that the letter attracted more initial attention (78%) than the gauge (45%). Fifty-eight percent (38) of the operators with the gauge preferred the letter; and 79% (47) of the operators with letter preferred the letter. Eighty-eight percent (133) of the consumers in gauge districts preferred the letter, and 72% (161) of those in letter districts preferring the letter. Based on these data, the letter method was recommended for a national disclosure system for New Zealand.

7 million hits on Australian state Name & Shame register

The New South Wales Food Authority has announced the popular Name and Shame register which publicly names businesses that fail to meet food safety standards has received more than 7 million hits online.

“This sends a clear message to food businesses that consumers expect high standards and are scanning the list of restaurants and other food outlets name.shame.restbefore deciding where to dine out,” said Katrina Hodgkinson NSW Minister for Primary Industries.

“A penalty notice on the register not only acts as a potential deterrent to would be diners it also serves as a deterrent to food businesses against making food safety breaches.”

There were almost 1.25 million views on the Name and Shame register in 2012 alone and more than 7.1 million since the register was established in 2008.

The most common food safety breaches under the Food Act 2003 are;

Cleaning and sanitation (35%)

Temperature control (13%)

Pest control – infestations, droppings (13%)

Hand washing offences (13%)

Protection from contamination – storage, personal hygiene (11%)

“The number of food businesses appearing on the register has almost halved in 3 years which shows the campaign is having the desired effect with more food outlets adhering to the rules,” Ms Hodgkinson said.

To view the Name and Shame register visit:

Check Before You Choose: Guelph lags on restaurant inspection disclosure

Guelph, the self-proclaimed Canadian capital of all things food – it’s not – has decided after 12 years to boldly follow Toronto’s lead and make barf.o.meter.dec.12available some form of restaurant inspection disclosure.

Not signs, not media, but a website.

The Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health Unit says a new online system for public access to food safety inspection records will be ready by February 2013.

“You will be able to go to the website and access the restaurant inspection results,” communications manager Chuck Ferguson told the Guelph Mercury.

Called, Check Before you Choose, it will start with information from October 2012 and maintain a two-year record going forward.

The website will show when the last inspection was done, what specific issues were found and what action was taken as a result. Infractions are classified as critical or non-critical depending on whether they pose an immediate risk to public health.

Guelph graduate Sylvanus Thompson, the associate director at Toronto Public Health responsible for food safety, says that the Toronto system has been adapted and modified by cities in Ontario, the U.S. and Europe.

Although showing a direct connection between the regulations and less people getting food poisoning is difficult, he says compliance has increased from less than 50 per cent in 2000 to 90 per cent.

“We are also seeing less of the type of infractions that contribute to foodborne illness and less cases of foodborne illness in Toronto,” he says.

In 2011 the Guelph Public Health Unit inspected 1,365 locations. It issued only one ticket but 1,204 of the inspections required follow-up.

Playing games to hide lousy inspection grades: Nevada edition

No one likes to get a “C.” Especially when that’s the worst grade you can get from the Southern Nevada Health District.

It means there’s a lot wrong at your restaurant. And folks who see that “C” might choose to eat somewhere else.

Perhaps that’s why Beijing Noodle Cafe on Sandhill and Flamingo kept their grade hidden from customers.  Contact 13 caught them in the act.

Darcy: You’re required to display that for the public.  The public needs to know that you have a “C” grade right now.

They were actually trying to fool people into believing they have an “A” by displaying old, outdated grade cards. The one in the front window is from June of 2011. The one inside from September 6 of this year.

We just happened to spot the current grade card, although you can’t see that it’s a “C.”  Restaurants are required to post those grade cards conspicuously.  It even says so on the card itself.  But theirs was in a place that hardly qualifies as conspicuous.

Darcy: Can you tell me why you have an A grade up there from September, and that C grade was hidden behind that wooden boat?

The manager didn’t want to talk on camera about their 32-demerit “C” grade.

She says health inspectors came during a particularly hectic lunch rush, and they simply didn’t have time to do everything right.

Darcy: They wrote you up for employees not washing their hands properly, for a bunch of food being at room temperature, which is not safe.

Beef, sprouts, cut tomato and fried rice were all in the temperature danger zone. And the person in charge wasn’t knowledgeable about proper food temperatures.

Raw eggs were stored next to cut vegetables and raw beef and chicken were stored over ready to eat food and sauces, which health inspectors see as a recipe for disaster because of the potential for cross-contamination.