Thunder Bay

Making the grade: food safety scorecards posted in Thunder Bay restaurants

The next time you visit your favourite restaurant or food truck in Thunder Bay, you may see a letter grade posted near the entrance. Changes to the city's bylaws now mandate that the results of the establishment's most recent food inspection be publicly posted.

Changes to city bylaws mean letter grades will be seen, based on most recent food safety inspection

Restaurant inspection grades will be publicly displayed in Thunder Bay establishments, starting in 2017.

The next time you visit your favourite restaurant or food truck in Thunder Bay, you may see a letter grade posted near the entrance.

Changes to the city's bylaws now mandate that the results of the establishment's most recent food inspection — distilled to an A,B,C or D letter grade — be publicly posted.

The new rules are designed to increase compliance with safety standards and to reduce the risk of illness through the improper preparation or handling of food, according to officials with the Thunder Bay District Health Unit.

How it works

Food inspectors will continue to do routine checks governed by provincial law, according to public health documents.

The inspectors will then assign a score out of 100 to the restaurant, subtracting 15, 10 or 5 points for each "critical," "major," or "minor" infraction respectively.

The final score is then translated into a letter grade which will be displayed publicly:

  • A = 90 to 100
  • B = 75 to 89
  • C = 60 to 74
  • D = 59 and below
The four letter grades on scorecards that will be publicly displayed in Thunder Bay restaurants. (CBC)

Businesses that score a 'C' or 'D' will be subject to, at minimum, monthly re-inspections for three months, until a 'B' grade is maintained. A new audit will then be done to potentially assign a new score to be publicly posted.

Inspectors can still close an establishment outright if a serious health hazard is discovered, according to the health unit, adding that upon re-opening, the business will be assigned a 'D' grade, and subject to re-inspections.

Infractions

Infractions that the health unit deems "critical," and which come with a 15 point deduction, include things like improper refrigeration, cooling or heating food too quickly, improperly cooking food, not properly washing hands and the presence of cross-contamination of raw and ready-to-eat foods.

"Major" infractions, worth a 10 point deduction, include not using thermometers to check food temperatures when cooking, not having a dedicated or accessible hand-washing sink, not having hand soap, poor kitchen staff hygiene and improperly installed or maintained food preparation areas.

Finally, "minor" infractions, which come with a 5 point deduction, relate more to overall maintenance and cleanliness.

Early support

The health unit officially launched the program on January 18 and handed out its first letter grade — an 'A' — to Chinese Express.

Owner Myhanh Nguyen said she supports the initiative.

"By having this program it lets our customers know and be confident eating here knowing that we've received, and are at, an A grade level," she said.

Myhanh Nguyen owns Chinese Express in Thunder Bay. (Jody Porter / CBC)

While this type of program is new to Thunder Bay, it is already taking place in "most other health units" across Ontario, a written release issued in conjunction with the program's launch stated.

According to public health officials, all 800 businesses that serve food in Thunder Bay will receive their scorecard by the end of the year.