How do you know if the food you are about to order was stored, prepared and served in a safe manner?
That’s a question that’s been on Central Albertans’ minds after a recent shocking video surfaced showing a local restaurant owner violating several health and safety codes including unsanitary food handling, food contamination by hair and lack of handwashing.
According to Alberta Health Services, Central Alberta restaurants receive about one to three routine inspections in a year.
A total of 35 public health inspectors share responsibility for the approximate 5,000 restaurants in Central Alberta.
On average the inspectors conduct 3.5 inspections a day. That would suggest that the 35 inspectors inspect about 122.5 restaurants a day, and all 5,000 food establishments can be inspected in about 40 days.
But that may not necessarily be the case because public health inspectors have other responsibilities as well. For example, they are also responsible for inspecting other facilities such as swimming pools.
They also prioritize their responsibilities, for example, if AHS receives a complaint regarding a restaurant, that restaurant will be higher on the check list versus a food establishment that’s due a routine check.
There are various types of inspections explained AHS’s Dr. Ifeoma Achebe, medical officer of health for Central Alberta, including a routine inspection which is a surprise visit from a public health inspector.
It happens between one to three times a year. This number may go up if there’s a previous breach or complaint.
Other types of inspections include an initial inspection which restaurateurs have to pass to receive their permit to be up and running. An inspection based on demand is when AHS receives a complaint and inspectors give them a surprise visit.
When asked if the one-to-three times a year inspection number is enough Achebe said that number is for restaurants that haven’t had any issues adding that restaurants are visited more frequently if there are concerns.
When there’s an issue with any food establishment, the management is advised to go through a food safety course, she added.
Public health inspectors operate under the Alberta Public Health Act to ensure compliance with the province’s Food Regulation.
AHS operates an inspection database for all of Alberta at www.albertahealthservices.ca. Here you can read the most recent five inspection reports, orders and court cases.