Do health ratings matter

At the front of all restaurants, there is a health food rating. This rating is designed to show the public how safe the restaurant is at preparing and storing food. However, these detailed inspections might not interest the public.

The safe food counts is a rating system that judges the health and safety of restaurants in Windsor-Essex. A rating is given to a restaurant by a Windsor-Essex County Health Unit inspector, who score the resultants with a star system and can be rated one to five. Five stars indicate a safe restaurant and a one is the least safe, the inspections are measured by an infraction list. Every infraction is noted and has a point value, with every infraction, a point is added and every 11 points, a star is taken away.

There are two types of infractions: critical and non-critical. Critical infractions have a higher point value, these infractions can cause food borne illnesses and infect customers. Critical infractions can be things such as temperature and how food is kept and cooked, hygiene issues and if the employees are washing their hands, etc. Sometimes a restaurant can be shut down if there is an immediate health hazard.

“Situations where a food premise may be issued a closure order, are severe pest infestation, no hot running water, no drinkable water, they are going through a food borne outbreak, power outage or they have sewage backup in the food preparation or storage area. Those are just some situations,” says Jenny Tan, public health inspector.

The map above shows 51 restaurants in the Windsor-Essex area with four or less stars. The map shows the name of the restaurant, the location, the day it was inspected, the rating out of five and why it had that rating. The map is coloured coordinated, red being a level one, yellow being a level two, green is a level three and blue is a level four. The map

This map was created on March 23rd, 2017 and since then, the safe food counts website has updated its ratings. To keep up to date on the star rating go to http://www.safefoodcounts.ca/

Michigan Dinner, located in Tecumseh, is the only restaurant in the previous inspection to score a single star rating. When asked how the rating had affected the restaurant, the owner refused to comment. One downside to the rating system is updating the ratings. “The stars only capture what the inspector sees at the time of inspection,’ says Tan.

Inspections are done every year. If an inspector sees an infraction and the restaurant fixes it, the rating won’t be updated until the next inspection. Inspection dates are done at least once a year for low risk restaurants.

Each restaurant at the time of inspection is given a risk level. Those that are a high risk will be looked at no less than three times a year, whereas a moderate risk is looked at no less than two times a year. Low risk restaurants only get looked at once a year, for example, a restaurant could have fixed an issue but now must wait four months until their rating is changed.

The star ratings might not have a large impact on customers. When asked, if health ratings are checked before entering a restaurant, some said no.

“No never, but if I found out they had a shitty one I probably wouldn’t go right, I probably should be looking into that then,” says Michael Chahin.

Dustin Fischuck says, “ I eat at a lot of places from just hearing about it. That’s usually good enough for me, then I check it out online.”

“I’ve worked at restaurants that at points had five and then at points had threes and twos. But it was still the same restaurant, still, the same people working there. It’s just a matter of when the inspection happened,” says Mohammad Thraya.

With restaurant owners refusing to comment on their low star health rating but customers not actively searching out the star rating. Do health ratings matter?

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