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Saturday, 4 April 2015

How to get a PASS from public health inspector on your next restaurant inspection?

Tips to get a Green Pass on food safety inspection from the public health inspector
by Jim Chan.

There are many eateries in Toronto no matter which part of the city you live in. According to Toronto Public Health's DineSafe Toronto inspection program data, there are over 17,000 food establishments in Toronto. In 2001 when DineSafe was first implemented,
the compliance rate was around 75%, however, according to Toronto Public Library post - DineSafe Toronto during the past few years, the compliance rate has been 90% each year. Toronto Public Health TPH Board of Health report April 2009 which indicated that 
DineSafe cuts rate of sickness and food-related illness cases by 30% in city’s eating establishments. However, with a compliance rate of 90% and less infractions in 2014 according to CBC News Toronto DineSafethere are still at least 1700 food establishments that failed at least 1 food safety inspection each year and still carrying a food safety risk to the public. 

When reviewing the DineSafe information from the disclosure website, it appears that the common infractions identified by public health inspectors are pest infestation including roaches, rodents and flies, lack of hand washing, inadequate temperature control and cleaning/sanitation that can result in a failed inspection report and a Conditional

Pass (Yellow card) or a Closure (Red card). The most common infractions that can earn a closure order (Red card) from the public health inspector are pest infestation (such as in a fast food restaurant according to CityNews - Roach infestationand gross unsanitary conditionAlso, a closure order from the public health inspector can result in a conviction and heavy fines in court as indicated in the following DineSafe report.

What can an operator do to avoid another fail inspection during the next routine visit by a public health inspector?

Each operator should be their own health inspector and conduct self-inspection regularly to identify food safety infractions and correct them as soon as possible before an unannounced spot check by the public health inspector. See following steps:

 10 easy steps to a PASS check list

1. Check food temperature control (use local health regulation & requirements)

  • Avoid the Danger Zone. Keep cold food COLD (below 4°C/40°F) and hot food HOT (above 60°C/140°F) and keep frozen below -18°C/0°F.
  • Check refrigerators and freezers to ensure they have indicating thermometers and in compliance of temperature requirements.
  • Cook all hazardous food such as meat to a safe internal temperatures, use a probe thermometer.

2. Check food storage to ensure food protected from contamination

  • Store cooked and ready-to-eat food items on shelves above raw food.
  • Cover food with lids or wrap and use utensils to reduce direct hand contact with prepared food.
  • Use clean safe water for making drinks, ice and preparing food.
  • Label chemicals and pesticides and store them away from food and the food preparation area.
  • Keep all food items off the floor and store on shelves, racks or pallets.

3. Check to ensure good personal hygiene is required from all employee

  • All food handlers must wash hands thoroughly before and after handling food.
  • Provide hot/cold running water, soap in a dispenser and a supply of paper towels at all hand wash basins. Ensure these basins only for hand washing and not for other purposes such as food preparation or dish washing.
  • Wear clean outer garments and hair constraints.

4. Check food contact surfaces/equipment to ensure good maintenance/sanitation

  • Clean and sanitize with soap and water followed by a solution of approved sanitizer.
  • Keep all food contact surfaces clean and in good condition.
  • Discard cracked utensils such as cutting boards or deeply grooved food contact surfaces.
  • Wash all utensils, dishes and equipment either by hand, using the two or three sink method (wash-rinse-sanitize) or in a mechanical dishwasher as required.

5. Check non-food contact surfaces/equipment to ensure good maintenance/sanitation

  • Keep floors, walls and ceilings clean and in good repair and to ensure all surfaces are smooth, non-absorbent and easy to clean.
  • Ensure the mechanical dishwasher and other equipment in good working condition.

6. Check all public and staff washrooms to ensure good maintenance/sanitation

  • Keep washrooms, toilets and change rooms clean at all times.
  • Provide: Toilet paper, garbage container,constant supply of hot/cold running water, soap in a dispenser and a supply of paper towels or a hot air dryer at the hand wash basin.

7. Check waste storage/removal

  • Remove solid and liquid waste from the food preparation area on a daily basis, or more often if necessary and store waste in a sanitary manner.
  • Waste receptacles must be leak-proof, pest-proof, non-absorbent and have tight-fitting lids.

8. Monitor pest infestation and control

  • Check for evidence of infestation such as live/dead pests, droppings, nesting sites. Ensure to cover any openings to prevent pests from entering. 

  • Eliminate any food or water sources for pests.
  • Obtain a contract with a licensed pest control operator to provide regular pest control services

9. Food service staff knowledge on food safety

  • Check to ensure food service staff have received food handler training & certified through a Food Safety Certification Course as per local health department's requirement. Re-fresh food handlers regularly with the knowledge of safe food handling practices.

10. Manitain good operational records

  • Keep records of food safety inspection reports by health inspectors and self-inspection reports, pest control schedules and service provided, equipment repair and maintenance records. Review records with managers regularly as part of the quality assurance program.

DineSafe In Toronto


  1. Disclosure of inspection results can improve compliance & reduce food poisoning risks in restaurants and other food establishments. Owner/managers don't like to have a failed inspection sign posted for their customers to see. If they do regular self-checks and fix problems ASAP. Why scare of the inspector's unannounced visits?

  2. I was at a bakery in New York City and I REFUSE to go there ever again after finding MOLD in one of their cheesecakes. It wasn't noticeable when it was packaged to-go, but it was there subtly hiding in the inner bottom part of the cake which I only noticed after biting into it. It was so disgusting! On top of that, the customer service was bad as I was asking about one of their pastries and the server couldn't care less, she stood there coughing over the pastries, did not wash her hands and handled food and money, GROSS!!!.

  3. Thanks for the comment. When a food establishment operator is not pay attention to the food quality and not watching the staff regularly to ensure they follow food safety and hygiene requirements, this bakery should not be in food business. I suggest that you contact the local health inspector to file a complaint and request an investigation, but make sure you ask the inspector to contact you back about the investigation result.

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  7. I worked in a pizza restaurant in New York City and I have been told by the owner to reuse leftover meat and cheese from kitchen that have been sitting in warm temperature for whole day. Can this make people sick? The owner won't want to hear my reason and continue to reuse old leftover moldy food.

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