Routine inspections are required to make sure the food you’re eating is safe. There are about 2,600 food premises inspected in Windsor-Essex County. These food premises range from full service restaurants, churches and catering vehicles.
In 2015, ‘Ontario’s Guidance Document for the Risk Categorization of Food Premises’ was released by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. The guidance document outlines risk factors and associated weights for each factor resulting in an overall score for each food premise. Based on this score, every food premises is assigned a risk level of high, moderate or low. This risk level then deems how many times per year the premise requires inspections as set out in the Ontario Food Safety Protocol.
A Public Health Inspector assesses the risk level of a food premises every year during an inspection. The risk level is given based on the likelihood that a food-borne illness outbreak could occur from the food served at that premises. For food premises which provide foods to vulnerable or at-risk people, have previous infractions, have extensive food handling, etc., it is more likely that harm could be caused to the public. In these cases, these food premises require more frequent inspections to ensure the public is safe.
Risk levels (High, Moderate, or Low) are assigned based on a variety of factors, each weighted differently:
Vulnerable and at-risk populations (elderly, immunocompromised, children) are more likely to experience serious complications from eating contaminated food. Those food premises serving these clients (e.g., Hospital, long- term care home, retirement home, daycare, etc.) will require more frequent inspections.
Preparation and Serving
The likelihood of contamination increases with the amount of food handling and steps involved in the preparation of food (assembling, cooking, cooling, reheating, etc.). Those premises which have many steps in food preparation are higher risk than those serving only prepackaged foods. Full-service banquet halls and premises where food is primarily catered off site also have an increased risk for food-borne illness.
Compliance with the Ontario Regulation 493/17 Food Premises is also weighted in the overall risk categorization score. Public Health Inspectors review inspection reports for the previous 12 months and determine if infractions were observed. Those with infractions are higher risk for foodborne illness outbreaks than those with no observed infractions.
If the premises has been confirmed as the source of a foodborne illness or outbreak related to improper food handling in the past 12 months, the premises is weighted a higher risk.
Food Safety Management Plan
If a documented food safety management plan is warranted but not in place, the premises is at a higher risk for foodborne illness outbreak. For premises with management plans in place, they are at a lower risk.
Food Safety Knowledge and Training
Premises where food handlers are not demonstrating safe food handling practices are higher risk. For those who have certified food handlers on site, they are at a lower risk. Learn more about our certified food handler course.
Once the assessment is complete, the PHI will categorize the premises into one of the 3 risk categories and inspect it accordingly:
High risk food premises:
A premises which has a high likelihood of a food-borne illness outbreak occurring and are required to be inspected at least once every 4 months.
Moderate risk food premises:
A premises which has a moderate likelihood of a food-borne illness outbreak occurring and are required to be inspected at least once every 6 months.
Low risk food premises:
A premises which has a low likelihood of a food-borne illness outbreak occurring and are required to be inspected at least once every 12 months.
For more information, please see Ontario’s Guidance Document for the Risk Categorization of Food Premises.