Food safety legislation

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As a food handler, it’s your responsibility to know what the regulations and standards are and to follow them.

The responsibility for ensuring food safety belongs to everyone in your food premises, from the owner or operator to the chef, to the server, to the dishwasher. Every person has a job to do, and part of that job is keeping your customers and the food that you prepare or sell safe.

The food service industry is regulated by legislation at all 3 levels of government (federal, provincial, and municipal). Legislation outlines rules that food premises must follow to ensure that their food is kept safe. Some legislation is specific to the food, like cooking temperatures. Other rules cover things like the condition of the building and the types of equipment that need to be used. All of these things together are very important and have an impact on how safe your food is.

The Ministry of Health recommends that all food premises designated as having a high or moderate risk rating, have at least one Certified Food Handler present at the establishment during all hours of operation.

Federal – Food and Drugs Act

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is made up of food inspectors from Health Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food, and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. CFIA is responsible for the inspection of food at the federal level.

The main regulating legislation at the federal level is the Food and Drugs Act. The Food and Drugs Act (and accompanying regulations) sets standards for all foods produced and sold in Canada. It looks at things such as the alteration, colouring, bacterial standards, manufacturing conditions and distribution of food to ensure the safety of human health.

There are also other acts and regulations at the federal level that govern specific food types like meats, milk and dairy, fish and seafood, poultry and eggs. These foods need special attention because they have been linked to outbreaks of foodborne illnesses.

Most of the food used in your facility comes from a federally-regulated facility.

Provincial – Health Protection and Promotion Act

Each province has its own provincial health acts and regulations. In Ontario, the Health Protection and Promotion Act (HPPA), lays out the mandate to make regulations, programs, and protocols which govern food premises. Public Health Sudbury & Districts is responsible for administering and enforcing the HPPA (and accompanying regulations) which requires that food served to the public is held, prepared, and served in a safe manner.

The HPPA lays out the powers of the Medical Officer of Health and the public health inspector. Some of these are:

Power of entry

The Medical Officer of Health or a public health inspector may enter any place of business, during normal work hours, without a warrant, to carry out the duties under the act. This would include routine inspections or the investigation of complaints of health hazards.

Power of seizure

The Medical Officer of Health or a public health inspector may seize anything suspected of being a health hazard for laboratory testing.

Power of destruction

If a public health inspector determines that food is a health hazard, they have the power to destroy or dispose of the food immediately.

Power to make an order

Orders are issued to eliminate a health hazard, or to lessen the effects of a health hazard. They can be either verbal (spoken) or written. Orders may also require a person or persons to stop doing something specific. In the case of food premises, this includes the power to order the premises to be closed until a health hazard is removed or fixed.

Public health inspectors enforce both the HPPA and the Food Premises Regulation by routine compliance inspections of all food premises. The regulation covers food premises, including cleaning and sanitizing, equipment, food temperatures, food handling, and employee hygiene in food premises.

During inspections, public health inspectors:

Public health inspectors also assign each food premises a risk level of high, moderate, or low. This is based on the establishment’s potential risk of causing a foodborne illness if proper food handling practices are not followed. This classification may change based on types of food served, the risk of severe illness in the population served, or on the results of the last inspection.

You are strongly encouraged to read and understand the legislation that pertains to your operation. Public health inspectors are available to assist you in understanding the requirements. For more information call your public health inspector at 705.522.9200, ext. 464 (toll-free 1.888.522.9200).

Other legislation that may apply to you include:

Compliance and benefits

There are many benefits associated with a facility which operates in compliance with the regulations. Ultimately, customers or clients want to know that the facility preparing their food is maintained in a clean and sanitary manner to prevent the spread of foodborne illnesses to themselves and/or their families.

Reasons to stay in compliance

Customer benefits

Employee benefits

Owner/operator benefits

In addition to inspection information, tickets and orders are also posted on the Check Before You Go! section of this website.

This item was last modified on December 10, 2020