27 food operations issued warnings in Nova Scotia last year
24 public health inspectors to check on 5,000 places
Nova Scotia has only 24 public health inspectors to conduct inspections of the 5,000 places that serve food in the province.
In 2013 alone, 27 food operations were issued a warning for not complying with food safety operations.
Inspections by the Department of Agriculture can be done every week or every year and a half based on a risk assessment of each facility.
Establishments are categorized as high, medium or low risk in order to best utilize the resources of the department.
Vic Schwartz, a regional manager with the Department of Agriculture, said high risk does not necessarily mean compliance has been an issue in the past.
“The vast majority of facilities have low or no deficiencies,” said Schwartz.
However a review of online inspection reports shows a variety of problems including pests and vermin and failing to protect food from contamination.
One of the basic requirements of the province's regulations is that every licensed food establishment owner/operator have food training safety. One trained person must be on duty at all times.
"I think it's very important and obviously the province does, too, because it been made mandatory." said Schwartz.
The department offers the six-hour training via online, classroom and private instructors at locations across the province. Schwartz says they train about 6,000 people each year.
Warnings could mean closures
But it is not uncommon for some restaurants to not meet training requirements.
The A&W at 9203 Commercial Street in New Minas was inspected five times between February 2012 and January of this year.
In every instance the owner/operator did not have the required training.
It was one of the 27 food operations that were issued a warning last year.
It was re- inspected Wednesday and no problems were found.
The A&W restaurant manager was contacted but had no response.
Schwartz said the warning is one of three steps that could result in its closure.
Other restaurants have had similar issues.
At Pipa Restaurant and Bar in Halifax, they've been cited six times in the past year for lack of trained staff.
Windsor's Wharf in downtown Windsor has been cited for 30 deficiencies since May 2011, including a lack of trained staff.
The 24 public health inspectors that do operate in the province have other responsibilities as well. Not only are they responsible for inspections and food handling training, they also do some infection control in long-term and child care facilities, as well summer camp inspections and training for volunteer community groups.
Luc Erajavec with the Canadian Restaurant and Food Services Association said it is important for food operations to have a comprehensive food safety program 24-7.
He says 1.8 million meals are served each day in Atlantic Canada with few, if any serious problems.
All reports on restaurant inspections can be found at the Department of Agriculture’s website.