Restaurant closure re-opens debate on visible rating system


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The recent closure of Kings Buffet in St. Thomas for the better part of a week due to a cockroach infestation in the kitchen area re-opens debate on the merits of a colour-coded rating system for local food premises, similar to the program in place in London and other municipalities.
In fact Elgin St. Thomas Public Health does visit food premises to conduct routine inspections and re-inspections, according to a fact sheet on their web site here.
Food premises are any premise where food or milk is manufactured, processed, prepared, stored, handled, displayed, distributed, transported, sold or offered for sale.
According to the health unit, public inspectors do a risk assessment for every food premise in St. Thomas and Elgin county every year.
So, what are they looking for?

Risk assessments look at: the types of food sold; how the food is prepared; equipment used; food safety management programs in place; food safety knowledge of staff; types of patrons (e.g. hospital, restaurant, daycare); and past and current compliance records of the food premise.
The risk assessment score that a premise receives determines if the establishment is high, medium or low risk. The number of routine inspections a premise received each year is based on this risk rating.
A high-risk restaurant will be inspected once every four months, a medium risk restaurant will be inspected once every six months and a low risk restaurant will be inspected once every 12 months.
If a food premise is assessed to be an immediate health risk it is closed and will not re-open until public health standards are met.
That was the case with Kings Buffet and so we wonder what is the follow-up in this case?
Jim Reffle, health protection programs manager at the health unit spells out the protocol for the restaurant that appears to have a high-risk profile.
“We will be doing more frequent inspections of this premise. Like I said, typically, these (inspections) are done one or two times a year. This one, we’ve been doing three times a year and, after a closure like this, we’re going to be doing, at least for the next few months, every other week.”
However, without visible external signage alerting patrons to the risk assessment, it remains a case of buyer beware with the possibility of nasty consequences when all is not well.

HAVE YOUR SAY
So, what exactly are Local Health Integration Networks – locally the Southwest LHIN – and what is their role in healthcare?
Is the Southwest LHIN a key piece of the health puzzle or another layer of bureaucracy that bleeds off money from front-line medical care?
To put matters in perspective, the Southwest LHIN manages an annual budget in excess of $2 billion, with 75% of that total divvied up amongst the region’s 20 hospitals and the remainder directed toward nursing homes and community care.
Now, you can have your say in how these dollars are spent through a series of public meetings, including 7 p.m. Sept. 10 at the St. Thomas Seniors Centre.
The funds allocated each year are significant; this is your opportunity to demand every one of those dollars is wisely spent.

OUR READERS WRITE
Last week we wondered whether St. Thomas might be the future home of a gaming facility in light of the fact the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation has pegged St. Thomas/Elgin as a possible host municipality.
That prompted the following observations from reader Jack DeVries.
“We are open for business, says Lori Baldwin-Sands in regards to the City of St. Thomas sending an invite to Toronto for a casino coming to St. Thomas. That is going a little too fast for me and so it seems also for Ald. Jeff Kohler.”
Kohler raised concerns at the August council meeting centering on the social costs associated with gaming facilities.
“I fully agree with Jeff,” writes DeVries, “because that would mean gambling coming to St. Thomas in a big way.Do we want to be part of creating more of an environment of selfishness and greed? More for me and I don’t care about you?”
DeVries continues: “Are we at the same time hiring an army of addiction and debt counsellors, because we are creating a society, where more people build up a financial debt load, resulting in more theft of personal property and more robberies?
“Lets have a lot more debate on this issue, whether we, the people of St. Thomas, want this.”
If council expresses an interest – and it did at this month’s meeting – public consultations are required advises the OLG.
In the meantime, your input is always welcome here.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“Union bashing will not fix the problem of skyrocketing health care expenditures. Union bashing will not balance the budget. Union bashing is a deliberate distraction from the fact that neither the Liberals nor the Progressive Conservatives are willing even to talk about what needs to be done to balance the budget.”

Paul McKeever, leader of the Freedom Party of Ontario, in an open letter this week to voters as the countdown is underway on by-elections in Vaughan and Kitchener-Waterloo that will determine whether or not Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals gain a majority government.

City Scope appears every Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to ian.mccallum@sunmedia.ca.

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One thought on “Restaurant closure re-opens debate on visible rating system

  1. Re: a place for lottery? Ask the town of Port Perry (north of Oshawa) about their experience with a casino.

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