Do health ratings matter

At the front of all restaurants there is a health food rating. This rating is design 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 a restaurant. A rating is done by a Windsor-Essex County Health Unit inspector. The ratings are done by a star count out of five. Five stars indicate a safe restaurant and a one is the least safe. When an inspector goes into the restaurant they have a list of infarctions and each one has a point value, the more infractions, the more points and at 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 because critical infractions can cause food born 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 ect. 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 sever pest infestation, no hot running water, no drinkable water, they are going through a food born outbreak, power outage or they have sewage backup in the food preparation or storage are. Those are just some situations.” -Jenny Tan public health inspector

This map shows 51 restaurant’s 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 colour coordinated, red being a level one, yellow being a level two, green is a level three and blue is a level four.

This map was created on March 23rd and since then the safe food counts website have updated their ratings. As of now the one and two star restaurants and some three and four star restaurants are no longer at that rating. To keep up to date on the star rating go to http://www.safefoodcounts.ca/

On the map is Michigan Dinner located in Tecumseh, which at the time had a level one star rating. When asked how the rating had affected the restaurant they refused to comment. One downside to the rating system is updating the ratings themselves.

“The stars only capture what the inspector sees at the time of inspection” – Jenny 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 are given a risk level, a high risk will be looked at no less than 3 times a year, a moderate risk is looked at no less than two times a year and a low risk at once every year. A restaurant could have fixed an issue but now must wait four months until their rating is changed.

The Star ratings might not have much effect. When asking the general public most say that they do not check the safety rating before entering a restaurant.

“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.” – Michael Chahin.

When someone looks to find a place to eat, most restaurants are spread around by word of mouth.

“ 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.” Dustin Fischuk

It seems to be that most people find restaurants by asking friends and their friends do not look at health and safety signs. So how do people know if a restaurant is good?

“I don’t know, I don’t how it’s good, but if it’s usually a place I’ve been to for a while that I know, that is clean, the food is consistence, I don’t see any red flags then it’s good for me… 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. If it was a restaurant I trusted personally then even if it had a one or a five I’d still be going there.” –Mohammad Thraya

It is interesting that restaurants do not want to respond or comment on their restaurant having a low rating. It seems that the rating only matters when someone becomes aware of it. People eat at 1 star restaurants and like it, pass it onto their friends. Most people tend to listen to friends than to look for themselves. Most websites like TripAdvisor and yelp, show ratings from users and not the health code. Maybe it takes an incident for people to actively look for the rating, maybe the signs need to be more in peoples face or on these popular websites.

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