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Beware of illegal food caterers, Health Unit says

SIMCOE, ON, FEB. 10, 2010 – There are reports of people operating illegal food catering businesses in the area and the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit is warning both the caterers and public that people’s health could be at risk.

“There are provincial laws governing food preparation and distribution to the public and our public health inspectors are responsible for making sure those rules are followed,” said Healthy Environment Program Coordinator Glen Steen. “We do have an approval process for catering businesses and we are encouraging those wishing to offer such services to speak with us to make sure they are complying with the law. Failure to do so can result in a fine of up to $5,000.”

Steen said the health unit has recently received tips about unapproved caterers who are in violation of Ontario’s Food Premises Regulations, which govern all operators who prepare food and/or offer food for sale to the public, including caterers, restaurants, institutions, cafeterias, banquet halls, fast food outlets, donut shops, grocery stores, variety stores, supermarkets, delicatessens, bakeries and mobile vehicles.

“Technically anyone can operate a catering business provided the food is prepared in an approved facility and is stored, transported and served safely and in accordance with the Food Premises Regulations,” Steen explained.

“We have found that some caterers who do not have their own approved kitchens are storing food in their homes prior to preparation and then transporting and serving it in an approved facility. That’s not legal. Food must be transported directly from an approved source, such as a supermarket or butcher’s shop, to the approved preparation facility. There are also many other safety regulations that need to be followed, including temperature requirements for keeping hot foods hot and cold foods cold.”

Steen said it is only possible to legally prepare food at a private residence for public consumption if there is a completely separate kitchen with a separate entrance that is inspected and approved by the health unit. The water supply also needs to be registered, sampled regularly and approved by the health unit.

In addition, Steen cautioned caterers to check for other possible legal requirements, such as zoning, building codes, fire codes and municipal licensing that might apply to their businesses.

There are several risks associated with food preparation in an unapproved facility. These include:

·The private water supply may be unsafe.
·Domestic pets may have access to the food preparation areas.
·There may be vermin and insect infestations.
·There may be inadequate storage for hot and cold food products.
·There could be cross contamination of food from raw to cooked foods.
·Foods may undergo temperature abuse.
·Utensils may not be cleaned and disinfected properly.
·Personal hygiene and sanitation may be lacking.
·Preparing large quantities of food greatly increases the potential for contamination and the growth of food poisoning organisms.

The Health Unit is urging unapproved caterers and prospective caterers to contact their local health inspector to help set up a proper, legal operation. Members of the public may also call to find out whether the health unit has approved a catering business. Health inspectors may be reached at the Simcoe office, 519-426-6170 or the Caledonia office, 905-318-5367.

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Media contact
Glen Steen
Program Coordinator
Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit
Ext. 3204 at either 519-426-6170 or 519-318-6623