Not good enough by half. That's about the kindest thing
we can say about the City of Hamilton's slipshod handling
of the program under which health-inspection approval certificates are issued
to restaurants and other food outlets. Yesterday, The Spectator's Fred
Vallance-Jones revealed that health officials are issuing the now-familiar green
certificates even when inspections reveal serious food-handling problems that could
lead to food poisoning.
So, Inspector Jones does his job on Joe's Diner (relax
... the establishment is fictional), and finds one or more
serious health infractions. That might mean he finds meat sitting
out at room temperature, or cooked food not being kept
hot enough, or employees not washing their hands properly after
using the washroom. He could even find a rodent infestation
but, provided it doesn't have an immediate effect on food
preparation, the certificate will still be issued. All the violator
needs to do is take immediate action to rectify the
problem. Then the green certificate will be issued, and everyone
goes away happy, even the customer.
And why wouldn't patrons at Joe's be happy? After all,
ignorance is bliss. They assume because the green sign is
up that everything is up to standard in Joe's kitchen
while, in reality, Joe's kitchen could be the farthest thing
from healthy. But what Joe's customers don't know could certainly
hurt them, which is what makes this situation entirely unacceptable.
How do the inspectors, and more importantly, consumers, know that,
once the green sign goes up, Joe doesn't go right
back to the unsafe food-preparation habits that almost got him
into trouble in the first place? Are we simply to
assume that, with the benefit of a stern warning, Joe
learned his lesson and no further violations will take place?