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.