Posts Tagged ‘MLHU’

Colour Coded Restaurant Inspections

October 19, 2008

I had the opportunity over the past couple of months to participate in a number of focus groups developed on for the Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) in order to get public input on the new system for identifying the cleanliness of restaurants in the MLHU jurisdiction.

Just this past week it was made public (in the London Free Press) that the MLHU would be requiring restaurants to post their inspection reports for public viewing.  Paired with a colour-coded system that alerts consumers to the cleanliness of a given establishment this initiative will bring London (and area) based restaurants up to a certain standard held in many cities in the region.

Although I fully believe that this is a step in the right direction I think that the MLHU is not taking the right approach to the issue of cleanliness in food service establishments.

Through sitting in and contributing to the focus groups that the MLHU held and experiencing the systems in places in such cities as Toronto I think that the MLHU’s approach to implementing a system here in London is not good enough as it allows for too many “unknowns” and interpretation of meanings.

With this new system, colours are associated with the cleanliness of an establishment.  Green indicates that everything (or almost everything) is ok, Red indicates that there have been severe infractions and that the establishment has been closed.  Then there is the Yellow indicator.

This is where the problem lies with me.  Yellow indicates a “conditional pass” which means “non-critical violations” have been identified, are not a health risk and must be remedied.  In my eyes a place is either clean or it isn’t and in the end it should either be open or not.

I know that we live in a world where everything is not black and white and there are grey areas everywhere we look, but when it comes to what I am eating I don’t want there to be any guess work that I have to do.

If I were to see a Yellow sign, marking a conditional pass, I begin to wonder what was the threshold the health examiner used when evaluating this establishment.  I fully understand that there are certain criteria that need to be met, but I begin to worry when an establishment is on the borderline of those criteria, teetering between the colors Yellow and Red.

When it comes to the safety of what I am eating I do not want to have to do reading in order to evaluate whether or not the establishment I am at is up to my standards, I just want to know if it is clean or not.

Chances are if an establishment is getting a “conditional pass” there are other things that need remediation that the inspector missed finding, many of these “other things” can be, and probably are more important and detrimental to the health of the consumers.

I honestly hope that this system, after it has been in place for some time, gets re-evaluated with input once again from the public to see if the system currently proposed is truly the best way to educate and inform consumers.  For now I guess I will have to live with the system that has been chosen and praise it as a beginning step in the right direction.

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Nutritious Food Basket

April 27, 2007

A follow-up to my last post on the subject (“London’s Board of Health re Social Assistance Rates”), this information comes from Heather Thomas (Public Health Dietitian, Middlesex-London Health Unit).

The Nutritious Food Basket is completed annually as required by the Ministry of Health Promotion (and previously the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care).

The Ministry requires the costing survey to be completed annually between May and June.

The list of 66 foods is determined by Stats Canada based on expenditure patterns of Canadians.

There are some limitations to the protocol and it is currently under review by the Ministry of Health Promotion. For example, the list of 66 foods may not be entirely reflective on your diet or my diet, may not meet one’s needs if they are on a special diet, may not be reflective of one’s multicultural background, and does not include foods that may be obtained as gifts, through hunting, or the like.

While it is not perfect, it is meant to provide a snapshot of trends in food costs over time.

London’s Board of Health re Social Assistance Rates

March 16, 2007

You may recall the letter that I sent to the Middlesex-London Health Unit about the inadequacy of social assistance rates.

At it’s 2007/02/15 meeting, London’s Board of Health reviewed Report No. 019-07 re Food Security Advocacy and passed a number of resolutions.

According to Dr. Graham Pollett (Medical Officer of Health):

It was moved by Mr. Edmondson, seconded by Rev. Eagle:

  1. That the Board of Health request the Premier of Ontario to increase social assistance benefit rates so that the Basic Allowance includes a nutrition allowance which meets daily nutritional needs as determined annually by the cost of the Nutritious Food Basket, and that the remainder of the Basic Allowance be set to enable recipients to afford other basic needs including transportation, clothing, and personal care items; and further
  2. That the Board of Health request the Premier of Ontario to publish annually the details of current social assistance rate components and how they are determined, including the nutrition allowance portion of the Basic Allowance; and further
  3. That The Board of Health request the Premier of Ontario to increase the provincial minimum wage to allow low income workers to purchase adequate nutritious food, as well as shelter and other basic needs; and further
  4. That the Board of Health request the Minister of Health Promotion to update the Nutritious Food Basket costing tool, based on the revised Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating; and further
  5. That the Board Report re Food Security Advocacy be forwarded for review and action to London City Council, Middlesex County Council, Local MPs and MPPs, and appropriate community agencies.

The resolution (#3) does not specify an amount, though the body of the Report supports an increase to $10 per hour.”

My thanks to Councillor Susan Eagle for her assistance. According to the Councillor, “Last night, the minutes were approved, so the resolutions are official.”

You can read the resolutions plus additional background information here:
http://www.healthunit.com/article.aspx?id=12900