Food safety: Does your fav restaurant have violations?
Many eateries in the university community — on campus and off — were cited for food safety deficiencies this year. Check the map to see which ones.
November 11, 2013, 4:41 PM ADT
Last updated November 13, 2013, 8:07 AM ADT
View Food Safety Deficiencies in a larger map for an easier way to read deficiency descriptions.
If ignorance is bliss, food lovers in Halifax’s university community might want to look away.
Three out of four of Dalhousie’s dining halls have had food safety deficiencies reported within the past year, with Risley Hall being the only one in the clear.
Dal’s Student Union Building has also experienced issues. Ceiling areas where water leakage has occurred need to be replaced and cleaned to ensure there’s no mould, as noted on Oct. 11, 2013. Servicing is also needed to ensure the kitchen has adequate air quality and strong enough ceilings to protect the health and safety of staff.
These deficiencies and more were uncovered during food safety inspections conducted throughout the past year. All food establishment inspection reports from Nova Scotia can be found online.
The above map highlights 50 of the establishments with noted deficiencies and their proximity to university campuses — and these issues are just the tip of the iceberg.
Some of the most popular restaurants near Halifax universities have been cited for food safety issues.
The Great Wall Restaurant on Bedford Row won Best Chinese in The Coast’s Best of Food 2013 survey. It’s been home to a slew of issues, including the observance of inadequate handwashing and being cited for a failure to properly cool potentially hazardous foods from room temperature on April 5, 2013.
Best Sushi went to Wasabi House on Quinpool Road. However, inspectors noted inadequate construction and/or maintenance of exterior openings on July 4, 2013, and observed the presence of pests on July 17, 2013.
Cha Baa Thai Restaurant on Queen Street won Best Thai despite receiving one notice and two warnings after the operator failed to ensure food handlers had the necessary training, with the latest warning issued on July 12, 2013.
Many of the deficiencies are minor, says Barry MacGregor, acting director for the food protection division with the provincial Agriculture Department. Maybe the inspector happened to catch a restaurant right before they had time to move a trash bag.
But if restaurant-goers aren’t aware of these issues, the issues can’t influence their decision of where to eat.
Issues on campus
Students have even less control over this decision-making process.
The majority of first-year students at Dalhousie rely on dining halls for all of their meals. All of the residences except for Glengary Apartments and Grad House require residents to buy meal plans.
But with food safety concerns noted at multiple locations around campus, it’s difficult for students to avoid these deficiencies.
Lauren Jeffs, a first-year student at Dalhousie, frequently eats in both Howe Hall and Shirreff Hall, but was unaware of any issues.
“It’s not very nice hearing issues like that, considering I’ve been eating at these places for the past few months,” she says. “However, we are just students [and] I don’t really think issues like that would cross our minds. We trust where we go to eat because we have no choice otherwise.”
While Jeffs says she wouldn’t avoid a meal hall after hearing about these issues, she does feel she has the right to be notified so she can be careful and knowledgeable about what she’s eating.
So why aren’t Haligonians looking into these food safety issues? Why are these deficiencies overlooked?
Barry MacGregor has a simple answer: customer loyalty.
MacGregor says customers have different reasons for choosing or not choosing restaurants and inspection reports can play a part in the decision-making process.
“Some people may not care about the food safety report — they may like the atmosphere, they may like the personnel in the restaurant — but there are certain people, and probably a growing number, that do have food safety concerns,” he says.
Affecting students around the city
India Parhar, a fourth-year student at Dalhousie, says she used to frequent Dharma Sushi on Argyle Street, so it’s “pretty troubling” hearing about its food safety issues.
On Sept. 11, 2013, Dharma was cited for a few deficiencies, including failure to follow proper dishwashing procedures and inadequate maintenance of hand wash stations, as the stations were being used for purposes other than handwashing.
But most troubling to Parhar was Dharma’s noted failure to protect food from contamination. The restaurant was warned that it must keep raw foods separate and always stored below ready-to-eat foods, which causes Parhar to question whether raw fish has come into contact with other foods she’s eating.
As a vegan, Parhar chooses to avoid all meat and fish. She’s always assumed establishments would respect this, but now she’s not so sure.
“You should be able to confidently assume your food isn’t contaminated with traces of things you didn’t actually order or ask for,” she says.
Training is a frequent deficiency
MacGregor says there is steady traffic on the website hosting the inspection reports, but it likely increases when deficiencies are brought to light.
“Each time a food safety issue hits the news, I wouldn’t be surprised if it triggers some activity on those reports,” he says.
The most frequent deficiency in food safety over the past year has been the operator failing to ensure food handlers have the necessary training.
MacGregor attributes this to the transience of the food industry.
He says it’s often high school or university students working for a short period of time, so there’s a high turnover rate. Employees who were present during a previous inspection may have had their food handling course up to date, but the owner may not have had time to train new employees.
“It seems like the workforce comes and goes,” he says. “It is often a revolving door in the food industry.”