Where is it safe to eat?
The Region of Waterloo performed health inspections on many restaurants in the UW Plaza this summer and the results are publicly available. But who really knows about these reports and do they really matter?
The inspections evaluate restaurants, bars, and even grocery stores (such as Farah’s Foods) on categories such as the presence of a certified food handler (usually an owner, manager, or supervisor, who has received training on the sanitary handling of foodstuffs), the separation of raw and cooked food (especially meat), and general cleanliness. For example, in 2012, the Pita Factory franchise in the Plaza was found to not be keeping cooked or re-heated food at a high enough temperature to ensure food safety, though this was corrected during the inspection.
Problems exposed by these inspections can be serious and lead to potential cases of food poisoning due to improperly handled or stored food, or a poorly-cleaned kitchen or restaurant area.
Luckily for those who wantto be informed about where they eat, inspections going back two years are published online by the Region of Waterloo. This gives some interesting insights. For example, infractions were much more common going back one or two years; in the earliest reports from 2012, a majority of restaurants had multiple infractions, some critical infractions (which represent problems or situations where food-borne illness is likely to arise).
In contrast, the reports from the summer of 2014 show few critical infractions in the Plaza, and many restaurants (including the Pita Factory franchise mentioned earlier) had no infractions whatsoever. This does not imply that there were no critical infractions — in fact, the Waterloo Sogo Restaurant had two: improper separation of raw and ready-to-eat or already-prepared foods in storage and storage of potentially hazardous food at too high of a temperature (that is, improper refrigeration or freezing of food). Critical infractions were additionally reported for Nuri Village, Al-Madina Restaurant, Lotus Barbecue House, Waterloo Star, Meet Point Restaurant, and Go Eat Chinese Restaurant, all for similar improper separation of raw and ready-to-eat or prepared food.
This information shows that while the fast food served at some plaza restaurants may be unhealthy, myths of food poisoning from certain notorious restaurants may be unfounded. However, if you believe that you have been made sick by food from a certain restaurant or if you believe that a restaurant or other food-related plaza business is operating under unsanitary conditions, you should report it to Region of Waterloo Public Health.
Public health inspection reports can be viewed at http://checkit.regionofwaterloo.ca/portal/Facility.