The Middlesex-London Health Unit identified that student-run restaurants and some residence cafeterias had the highest number of infractions among campus eateries during 2022 and 2023 food inspections.
The Spoke, the Wave, Medway-Sydenham Hall cafeteria and Ivey Eatery had the most with six infractions each, followed by the Ontario Hall cafeteria, the Grad Club and the Elgin Hall cafeteria with five each.
Subway, Tim Hortons, Starbucks and Booster Juice on campus each had one or no infractions.
The MLHU inspects all restaurants in the Middlesex-London region every year through the DineSafe program. All campus eateries received DineSafe Inspection Summary Green Signs — a passing grade — after the inspections in 2022 and 2023.
A Green Sign indicates the facilities have “substantial compliance” with Ontario Food Premises Regulation, with no health hazards present on-site, according to MLHU food safety program manager David Pavletic.
Pavletic said the MLHU is one of the first health units in Ontario to adopt a DineSafe disclosure program that publishes inspection summaries to inform the public’s dining decisions.
Pavletic said restaurants with more reported infractions are not necessarily riskier than others with fewer, but just operate differently. The number of infractions depends on many factors, including how busy the restaurant is, the operators’ ability to address challenges and the number of product suppliers.
“If you go to a significantly large food premise with a lot of food handling, that's going to bring more opportunities to locate infractions. So it’s really apples and oranges if you’re looking at facilities and the opportunities for infractions,” said Pavletic.
The MLHU identifies two kinds of infractions in food outlets — critical infractions, which indicate a greater risk of foodborne illness — and non-critical infractions, which are unlikely to cause foodborne illness.
The public health inspectors identified a critical infraction in the Spoke on Feb. 6 and in the Wave on Oct. 19, 2022 for “failing to protect food from contamination and adulteration.” This critical infraction was identified four times in the Spoke’s last eight inspections.
According to the MLHU reports obtained by the Gazette, the inspectors observed an ice machine with an accumulation of dirt and a scooping utensil that was stored in a flour container in the Spoke — not separately from food.
In the Wave, the inspectors found a piece of uncovered cheesecake stored in one of the line coolers near the dishwashing area and a plastic food wrap with a missing cover.
Four of the last five inspections at the Wave identified infractions regarding cleaning, sanitizing and maintaining equipment. The inspector found a heavily-stained cutting board and a water gauge cover that “appeared to be broken” on Feb. 6.
Mark Leonard, a senior manager of the USC Hospitality Services wrote in a statement to the Gazette that the team follows and processes food safety ministry guidelines multiple times a day for temperature logs, cross-contaminations, food storage and food labelling.
“Every restaurant has encountered infractions, and this attention to detail helps us continue to improve as a restaurant. The language used to describe infractions is often more intense than intended without context, but none of the infractions we've received have been a risk or a food safety issue to our customers,” Leonard wrote.
“Failing to protect food from contamination and adulteration” was also the most popular critical infractions in Western University residence cafeterias during the inspections in 2022 and 2023.
According to the MLHU reports, the public health inspector found mould inside the ice machine and fans accumulated with dust and debris in some walk-in coolers during an inspection of the Med-Syd cafeteria on April 19, 2022.
Many residence cafeterias and the UCC Food Hub failed to keep hazardous food at a proper temperature in the past year’s inspection, a violation that could lead to the growth of infectious or toxigenic microorganisms.
Another inspection in the Med-Syd cafeteria on Oct. 24, 2022 observed cooked chicken had been sitting in a hot holding unit at 45 degrees celsius for over two hours. Food stored in hot holding units should be kept at 60 degrees celsius or higher.
Med-Syd’s cafeteria had 16 infractions from 2019 to 2023, more than any other food outlet on campus, followed by Essex Hall, the Spoke and UCC Food Hub.
“Food safety and quality is our top priority and we invest in training certification for all employees as part of the orientation process and conduct periodic refresher courses throughout the year,” Western Hospitality Services director Colin Porter wrote in a statement to the Gazette.
According to Porter, Hospitality Services conducts daily food safety assessments and extensive monthly audits of on-campus eateries. An independent external auditor also conducts periodic, unannounced food safety inspections.
“When managing large scale, complex food production and service operations, it is not uncommon for organizations to incur low-risk infractions during an inspection, such as a thermometer or kitchen tool that needs replacing, that are quickly corrected through collaborative work with the local public health unit,” Porter wrote.
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