Health inspections give the public reassurance that a food establishment is safe to eat at. However, restaurant owners and staff can get a bit anxious about health inspections, even if they are diligent about food safety. Much of that anxiety can be removed by better understanding what inspectors look for and how the inspection system itself works.
The following brief overview of restaurant inspections can help you in your career by showing what goes into running a safe and successful restaurant.
Pros with a Food Handling Certificate Should Know the Three Types of Infractions
In Toronto and other Ontario municipalities, infractions fall into one of three categories based on severity: minor, significant, and crucial. Minor infractions are those that present the least health risk and must be corrected by the next inspection. If minor infractions aren’t corrected, the restaurant may be fined. Examples of such infractions include hair nets not being worn or non-food surfaces like floors or walls being damaged.
A significant infraction is a potential but not immediate health hazard and it needs to be fixed within 24-48 hours. Examples of significant infractions include unclean food contact surfaces, unsanitary washrooms, or a lack of thermometers. Because significant infractions can become crucial health hazards through improper food handling, a food handling course helps you avoid these infractions in the first place.
Crucial infractions are the most serious type and they present an immediate health hazard. This category includes infractions like pest infestations, sewage back-up, and contaminated food. These problems need to be corrected right away and if they aren’t the restaurant may be closed down temporarily.
Most Restaurants Take Food Handling Seriously and Pass their Health Inspections
Failing a health inspection is the last thing any restaurant owner wants, but the good news is that the vast majority of restaurants pass their inspections. For instance, as of February 12, 2019, Toronto Public Health has inspected more than 17,200 food establishments in Toronto, but only one has been closed and fewer than 50 have received conditional passes. The rest have received full passes. So while a health inspection certainly sounds scary, a restaurant that takes food safety seriously—and that follows the principles taught in a food handling certificate program—should have no problem passing their inspection.
Food Handling Plays an Important Role in Determining a Restaurant’s Risk Level
Each restaurant is assessed a risk level of low, moderate, or high. These risk levels reflect such things as the type of food a restaurant serves and the vulnerability of their clientele.
For example, a restaurant located in a hospital is considered a high-risk restaurant because it serves a vulnerable population. A restaurant that prepares potentially hazardous food, such as milk, meat, poultry, and fish, could be considered either a moderate or high risk establishment depending on how the food is prepared and how often it is handled. A facility that only serves pre-packaged food, on the other hand, is considered low risk.
A restaurant’s risk level determines how often it is inspected. A low-risk establishment is inspected at least one per year, a moderate-risk establishment at least twice a year, and a high-risk establishment at least three times per year.
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