New Brunswick

Restaurant advocate calls for simpler food inspection system

Luc Erjavec, the vice-president in Atlantic Canada for Restaurants Canada, says he hears complaints from a lot of restaurant owners about inspections and enforcement.

Current system leads to complaints of inconsistency, says industry spokesperson

Luc Erjavec of Restaurants Canada believes changes could be made to health inspections. (CBC)

An advocate for restaurants in Canada is calling for a more simplistic approach to inspections in places that serve food.

Luc Erjavec, the vice-president in Atlantic Canada for Restaurants Canada, said he hears complaints from a lot of restaurant owners about inspections and enforcement.

"I think sometimes there is an inconsistency [that] would be the largest complaint that I would get," Erjavec told Information Morning Saint John.

Erjavec's comments come after longtime Saint John Market tenant Jeremiah's Deli was closed because of Public Health Act violations.

An inspector found rodent droppings on the premises, among other violations.

Province 'unique'

Food inspection is broken down into five regions, four representing geographical regions and one responsible for agri-foods, including inspecting dairy farms and abattoirs. (GNB)

Erjavic said some of the inconsistencies in inspections could be attributed to how the province divides up inspection jobs.

"New Brunswick is a little bit unique in Atlantic Canada that they break the province down in several regions," said Erjavic.

"So one region may look at it a little bit differently than the other region which may lead to inconsistencies."

Erjavic also said conflicts between restaurant owners and health inspectors can be a problem.

"Sometimes when you put individual personalities, be it the restaurant owner or inspector's, personalities will come [into] play," said Erjavic.

When a restaurant is inspected, it receives one of five grades.

Colour-coded results

Restaurants in New Brunswick are given one of five ratings: green, light yellow, dark yellow, striped red or red. (GNB)

Green indicates no more than five minor violations, light yellow six to nine minor violations, dark yellow no more than three major violations, striped red, where corrections are required for varying levels of violations, including critical violations, and red, where the restaurant's licence is revoked.

A minor violation could be not posting cleaning and sanitation procedures while a critical violation would include not having a hand-washing station with hot and cold water available.

Erjavic said he'd like to see a more simplistic system.

"The average consumer wouldn't know if a yellow's good or bad, or striped good or bad," said Erjavic.

Few food-borne illnesses

He suggested a system where there would be no grey areas. If the public is at risk, a restaurant should be closed, he said.

Though the system could be improved, Erjavic said, New Brunswickers should be confident that their food is safe.

"We serve essentially hundreds of millions of meals a year in New Brunswick with few, if any, major food-borne illnesses," he said. 

"The system works."

With files from Information Morning Saint John