Food safety legislation
Inspection results are available online. Check Before You Go!
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:
- address unsafe food handling practices
- address issues of non-compliance with regulations
- investigated reports of foodborne illnesses and foodborne outbreaks
- investigate consumer complaints
- carry-out action needed in response to food recalls, fires, floods, and emergencies
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:
- Ontario Regulation 503 – Recreational Camps
- Ontario Regulation 502 – Camps in Unorganized Territories
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
- Fresh tasting food. Food that is stored and prepared safely will taste better; regular product turnover will ensure freshness (for example “first in, first out”), storage at proper temperatures will prevent spoilage, and properly covered and labeled food will prevent cross-contamination.
- Repeat business and customer trust. Customers will return to a restaurant that prepares food in a clean and safe kitchen, and does not expose them to foodborne illness-causing bacteria.
- Employee attitudes. Job satisfaction improves when working in a clean and safe environment.
- Employee health and work attendance. Employees are less likely to become ill at work if they are well-educated in food safety. Employees are not allowed to work while ill, and shall not return to work until they are free of symptoms for at least 48 hours. Symptoms may include fever, coughing, sneezing, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. If an employee tests positive for an enteric illness, they may be required to submit 2 stool samples that test negative for the illness before they are allowed to return to work. For some illnesses, this could take several weeks.
- More customers, more profits. There will be greater financial gains for a facility that appeals to new and returning customers.
- Reduced risk of spreading foodborne illnesses. This may lower insurance costs, and reduce the risk for lawsuits, medical claims, and fines levied by the public health inspector for serving unsafe food.
- No wasted money. Restaurant kitchens should be cleaned on a daily basis, and all staff should have a role in doing so. Routine cleaning prevents grease and residue buildups, which extends the lifetime of equipment, reduces costs for additional cleaning products, and ensures that staff can focus on their regular work tasks. Cleaning schedules should be created to ensure that routine cleaning of coolers, walls, ceilings, and hard-to-reach places are being done.
- First in, first out. Products should be labelled to ensure that the products closest to reaching the end of their shelf-life are used first, and do not go to waste.
- No facility closures. Closure orders can be costly for restaurant owners, as there are immediate and possible future costs. This may include expenses for additional cleaning supplies, pest control, equipment repairs, or loss of sales during the closure; as well as potential loss of future business due to public perception. A closure order will only be lifted when the facility is maintained in a safe and sanitary manner.
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