Restaurants and other food premises that have more than four repeat “critical” infractions over a 12-month period would have to participate in training, according to the proposal from public health staff.
Critical infractions are those that could contribute to food-borne illness, and include improperly cooking or storing food, or the presence of an insect or rodent infestation that could potentially contaminate food.
The targeted training would supplement punishment applied to places that break the rules, which can range from fines to closures. (The city also posts the results of inspections on its website, meaning restaurants that violate regulations face the threat of lost business.)
The public health unit currently offers voluntary courses and certification in food-handler training. Staff looked into the possibility of mandatory training for all food handlers, but found it wouldn’t be a worthwhile use of resources.
It’s difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of mandatory certification from other Ontario health units, the report states, and making such requirements mandatory is unwarranted for low-risk establishments such as variety stores.
The transient nature of people in the industry also makes it difficult to track trained food-handlers, it says.
“Mandatory training for all food handlers has been found to have limited benefits; a targeted food handler training approach would enable (Ottawa Public Health) to focus efforts on food premises operators with a history of non-compliance, while still offering the training to all those wishing to be certified,” staff wrote.
The board of health is to discuss the proposal on Monday.
Last year, more than 1,500 people were certified in safe food handling, the report says, 10 per cent more than 2009.
According to the report, food inspectors conducted 13,837 inspections in 2011, up from 13,710 in 2010.
There were 55 provincial offence notices issued last year to 39 premises, up from 20 that were given to 13 facilities in 2010.
Four closure orders were handed out in 2011, down from six during the previous year.
Inspection results can be found at ottawa.ca/restaurantinspections.