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About Inspections

The Health Protection and Promotion Act (HPPA) of Ontario gives Public Health Inspectors (PHIs) the authority to inspect all food premises under Ontario Food Premises Regulation 562. The Regulation outlines the minimum standards a food premises must meet with the purpose of reducing the risk of foodborne illness in the population.

Food premises operators are not notified when an inspection will be conducted. Compliance with the Regulation is the ongoing responsibility of the food premises operator. It is not unusual for PHIs to observe deficiencies during routine inspections; however, when deficiencies occur, it is the responsibility of the operator to take measures to prevent any risk to the public, and then rectify the problem as soon as reasonably possible. During a routine inspection, the PHI will record any observed deficiencies and ensure they are corrected. When a PHI finds that non-compliance is a recurring problem, the PHI has the authority to take legal action to ensure ongoing compliance with the Regulation, and safe food handling is put in practice.

Inspection Categories

PHIs are required to assess all food establishments at least one (1) time per year to determine the level of risk of the establishment. The risk level then determines the frequency of inspections conducted. It is important to note that if a food establishment is determined a high-risk establishment, it does not necessarily mean the food premise is unsafe. It simply means the food establishment has a greater number of risk factors (as listed below) and a higher level of assessed risk.

Many factors are considered when determining the risk level of a food establishment. They include:

  • Population Served - premises serving the elderly or the young are categorized differently than those serving the general population.
  • Number of Meals Served - premises serving large numbers of meals per day are categorized differently than those serving fewer meals.
  • Types of Food Served - premises serving many hazardous foods (meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy products) are categorized differently than those serving fewer or no hazardous foods.
  • Food Preparation - premises using multi-stage preparation involving different combinations of thawing, cooking, cooling, assembling, reheating, etc., are categorized differently than those with simpler preparation requirements.
  • Compliance History - premises with a history of non-compliance and/or convictions under the Regulation are categorized differently than those with compliant inspection histories.
  • Foodborne Illness - premises that have been implicated in a foodborne illness are categorized differently than those that have never been implicated in a foodborne illness.

After assessing all of the above factors, the PHI assigns each food premises a rating of high, moderate, or low risk. High-risk premises are inspected a minimum of three (3) times per year; moderate-risk premises are inspected a minimum of two (2) times per year; and low-risk premises are inspected at least one (1) time per year.

Inspection Protocol

Routine Inspection

The Regulation outlines the minimum standards a food premises must meet. The standards relate to such items as food temperatures, food handling, sanitation, dishwashing, and personal hygiene practices. PHIs visit food premises on a routine basis to inspect the physical environment and observe the practices of food handlers to ensure the premises is being operated in accordance with the Regulation. Deficiencies observed by the PHI are often corrected by the operator during the routine inspection; however, when significant infractions cannot be corrected immediately, re-inspection is required.

Re-inspection

When significant infractions cannot be corrected during a routine inspection, a PHI will conduct a re-inspection to verify these deficiencies are resolved within a reasonable time.

Legal Action

Charges/Tickets/Summonses

Normally, PHIs are able to confirm compliance with the Regulation using the inspection/re-inspection process; however, where compliance cannot be achieved through this process, PHIs, under the HPPA, have the authority to issue Provincial Offence Notices (tickets) and summonses to an owner, operator or food handler for non-compliance within the Regulation. Repeat infractions, noted during re-inspection or during any subsequent compliance inspection, may be subject to legal action independent of the DineSafe Lambton program. It is possible for an establishment to be charged despite receiving a Green (Pass) sign. Legal action may also be initiated for any infraction under the Food Safety Disclosure By-Law.

A summons requires the person charged to appear in court, and may lead to a trial date being set. If convicted following a trial, the Justice of the Peace will determine an adequate sentence.

Seizing and Destroying Food

Section 19 of the HPPA provides PHIs the authority to seize and destroy food, where in their opinion, upon reasonable and probable grounds, a health hazard may exist. Examples may be temperature abused hazardous foods or foods that have been contaminated in any way.

Orders

A PHI may make an Order under Section 13 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act, where he / she is of the opinion, upon reasonable and probable grounds, a health hazard exists. The requirements specified in the Order are necessary to decrease the effect or to eliminate the health hazard. Orders may include, but are not limited to:

  • closing a premises or part of a premises
  • cleaning or disinfecting a premises
  • prohibiting or regulating the manufacturing, processing, preparation, storage, handling, display, transportation, sale, offering for sale or distribution of any food or thing
  • requiring the destruction of the matter or thing specified in the Order (HPPA, Section 13)

Food premises may be issued an "order to close" for the following reasons:

  • premises is involved in a foodborne illness outbreak
  • has no potable hot and cold running water adequate for the functioning of the premises
  • pest infestations
  • sewage backup
  • fires/floods/power outages
  • overall sanitation problems
  • immediate health hazards
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