Restaurants at the Campus Court Plaza and University Shops Plaza near UW have been riddled with health code violations and inspection issues, some of them even receiving court summons which could result in fines of up to $25,000.
Health code violations in the area aren’t new, with four restaurants having their food seized and destroyed in September 2019. In the past 30 days, five restaurants have had critical food safety violations issued.
Court Summons are extremely rare in the food industry, but two restaurants in the area received court summons following multiple poor inspection results in January 2020.
A website run by the Region of Waterloo Public Health department highlights results of all health inspections carried out in the region, including results for restaurants, salons, hotels, and other service providers of the region.
“You can’t inspect your way to food safety,” Keith Warriner, a food science professor at the University of Guelph, told CBC news. He added that higher fines and punishments should be levied on the offender, along with inspectors threatening to close their restaurant if they continue to offend.
Inspection reports claim that there are three more restaurants in University Shops Plaza that have had poor inspection records in August, with each receiving at least three violations- including a poor valuation on the safety of their food.
“What often happens is that one feeds off the others, It’s just like people saying ‘Well, look, they’re getting away with this, why shouldn’t we do the same?’” Warriner elaborated.
Warriner said that levying harsh penalties and preventing consumers from going to these restaurants are two measures that could help change health and hygiene at restaurants.
Mizu Restaurant at the University Shops Plaza has had the most offences in Waterloo region, with over 20 infractions in five inspections since October 2019. Mizu has been linked to food contamination and one point cited with “not protected against the entry and harbouring of pests,” and three times for storing food on the floor. Mizu is just one of the 5 restaurants that have been facing serious health infractions in the past year, having had its food destroyed by officials at one point.
Warriner added that being informed about health code violations and knowing the right information is extremely important to prevent consumers from going to restaurants like these. This will only be possible if Waterloo has as good a program as Toronto’s DineSafe in place. DineSafe requires restaurants in Toronto to display a coloured sticker – red, yellow, or green – near the entrance, depending on the business’s last inspection result.
DineSafe was put in place by help from Jim Chan, who was previously a Toronto Health Inspector. This program led to a substantial rise in restaurant compliance. The compliance rate was around 78 percent when the program was first launched in 2001.
“Two or three years later, it went up to 85 percent and now it’s around 90 to 92 percent compliance,” Chan told CBC news.
Chan thought that the website run by the Region of Waterloo’s Public Health department can help provide the same information, but it is an imperfect system. “If you don’t have a smartphone or tablet with you, how are you going to search it? They’re not going to spend two, three hours looking into a website before they even go for lunch or dinner.” Chan added to CBC news.