What are the Key Changes to Ontario's Food Premises Regulations and How Do They Affect Foodservice Operators?
Ontario’s new Food Premises Regulation (O. Reg. 493/17), under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. H.7 came into effect on July 1, 2018, bringing with it some important changes for foodservice businesses across the province. Though the Regulation has been in effect since July, the transition to compliance with the new requirements is still ongoing for many establishments. The modernized Regulation has taken the place of the Food Premises Regulation (O. Reg. 562), which dated all the way back to 1967, and tackles issues like food handler training, energy conservation, and more.
We recently had the opportunity to speak with Tony Amalfa, a nationally certified public health inspector and the CEO of Advance Public Health Consulting, about what foodservice operators in Ontario should be aware of to be compliant, and how they can more effectively make the necessary transitions. Tony served as the Manager of Environmental Health Policy and Programs at the Ontario Public Service with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care for more than 10 years, where he led the efforts to modernize Ontario’s Food Premises Regulation. Tony has also held positions with two of Ontario’s public health units, and launched Advance Public Health Consulting, a public health consultancy and training provider for certified public health inspectors, in July 2018.
What has changed with the new Food Premises Regulation?
One of the more significant changes that has come with the arrival of the new Food Premises Regulation is the requirement that at least one food handler or supervisor who has completed food handler training be on premise for every operating hour. This training is offered by Ontario public health units, and by commercial food handling training providers like FoodSafetyMarket.
While the basic requirement for one trained person onsite seems simple, you’ll need to ensure that you’re able to remain compliant in the event that trained employees call in sick, miss work, or quit unexpectedly, and to lessen the risks of customers becoming ill from food poisoning. Prior to the implementation of this requirement, food handler training requirements ranged across the province from being voluntary to specific municipal bylaws. The new Ontario-wide requirement now ensures consistency in all foodservice establishments and to promote safer food handling.
Other significant changes in the regulation will help establishments conserve energy. The previous regulations stated that frozen food should be kept at -18°C, whereas the new regulation states “frozen solid”. This change allows foodservice operators more flexibility in setting higher freezer temperatures leading to energy savings while maintaining safe food storage practices. As well, the modernized regulation now recognizes NSF-certified mechanical dishwashers that are energy efficient and are certified for commercial use utilizing wash and rinse temperatures other than those required by the previous regulation. The new regulation continues to prescribe wash and rinse temperatures to ensure existing commercial dishwashers
continue to be in compliance. Over time, these changes will conserve energy and reduce operational costs.
How can your foodservice establishment can ensure compliance?
All foodservice premises in Ontario are regularly inspected by certified public health inspectors from one of Ontario’s public health units. There’s a good chance that you’re already familiar with your regular public health inspector and have established a positive relationship with them - after all, public health inspectors are there to help your establishment meet health and safety requirements and to guide you through any necessary changes that must be made. Fostering a healthy relationship of trust and respect with your public health inspector is crucial to the success of your establishment’s compliance with the new Food Premises Regulation.
In order to ensure that your establishment is compliant with the new Food Premises Regulation, Tony recommends getting in touch with your public health inspector, if you haven’t already, who will help your establishment ensure a quick and seamless transition to the new requirements.