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How the DineSafe program works

As part of the DineSafe program, Toronto Public Health inspects every business that serves food or drink in Toronto at least once a year. The results are posted on the ubiquitous green, yellow and red signs adorning restaurant windows across the city.

But how does DineSafe work? And what prompts a pass, conditional pass or fail? Below, we examine the system we rely on to tell us whether a restaurant is safe or sketchy.

HOW OFTEN RESTAURANTS ARE INSPECTED

3 times/year: Establishments that prepare hazardous food — which can host pathogenic organisms and their toxins — AND serve a high-risk population, such as hospital patients, use involved processes and foods that often cause illness or has caused a foodborne illness or outbreak.

2 times/year: Establishments that prepare hazardous food, handle their food a lot, or go through a high volume of food.

1 time/year: Establishments that serve pre-packaged hazardous food, prepare food that doesn’t meet the criteria for the above categories or do not store hazardous food.

TYPES OF INFRACTIONS

Minor (minimal health risk; must be fixed by the next inspection):
•    Walls, floors or other non-food contact surfaces or equipment need cleaning or repair (for example, cracked or missing floor tiles, cracked or peeling paint not directly over food preparation area)
•    Inadequate ventilation and lighting systems
•    Hair not covered or tied back

Significant (potential health hazard; must be fixed in 24-48 hours):
•    Food contact surfaces or equipment need cleaning or repair
•    Fridge, freezer or dishwasher needs fixing
•    Thermometers not provided
•    Nowhere to wash hands or no soap provided
•    Garbage not stored properly
•    Equipment and utensils not cleaned or sterilized properly
•    Washrooms not clean and lack soap, toilet paper, etc.

Crucial (immediate health hazard; must be fixed immediately or restaurant can be closed down):
•    No hot or cold running water in food prep area or where utensils are washed
•    Rodent or insect infestation without effective pest control
•    Inadequate refrigeration
•    Sewage backup
•    No safe drinking water
•    Contaminated food

TYPES OF NOTICES

Pass: minor or no infractions. Fines for ignoring minor infractions range from $45 to $370.

Conditional pass: one or more significant infractions.

Closed: One or more crucial infractions. A restaurant will only be closed when a health hazard is present.

For more information, visit the Toronto Public Health website.