We inspect all food premises to ensure businesses comply with the Ontario Food Premises Regulation 562 made under the Health Protection and Promotion Act. If you’re opening a new food business or serving food at a special event, you must contact us first.
Public Health inspection
Public health inspectors inspect all food premises, including:
- Grocery stores
- Farmers’ markets
- Food carts
- Special events
- Institutions (e.g., long-term care centre) and daycare centres
How often a premises is inspected depends on a level of assigned risk, based on the types of food prepared and people served:
- High risk premises are inspected at least three times per year.
- Moderate risk premises are inspected at least twice a year.
- Low risk premises are inspected at least once per year.
- Additional inspections may be conducted to investigate complaints, suspected food-borne illnesses, and emergency situations like fire, power outage, and flood.
Inspectors look for:
- Food storage temperatures, hot and cold
- Cooking, reheating, and cooling times and temperatures of food
- Personal hygiene of employees
- Food production methods and procedures
- Flow of food through receiving, storage, preparation, and service
- Dish and equipment washing and sanitizing procedures
- Food sources
- Pest control
- Methods of garbage collection, holding and disposal
- Cleanliness of floors, walls, ceilings, equipment, and other surfaces
- HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points)
Handwashing and personal hygiene
Proper handwashing is very important when working with food. Employees must wash their hands before working with food, after touching raw food, after using the washroom, and whenever they might have gotten dirty or contaminated. Anyone touching or handling food must confine their hair, wear clean outer garments, and not smoke in the kitchen. Print out fact sheet on cleaning your hands (PDF).
Gloves are not required for food handling in Ontario. If gloves are worn to handle food, hands must be washed with soap and warm water before and after wearing gloves. Gloves must be changed after each task and any time they might have become contaminated. Gloves are not a substitute for proper handwashing.
HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points) is a science-based, globally accepted food safety system. It's used to look at the how hazardous and high-risk foods are prepared. It helps us find potential problems with food handling, storage, cooking, and serving. HACCP allows us to make changes that ensure the food prepared and served is safe.
Download the HACCP Booklet (PDF, 32 pages).
What happens if we find a health hazard
If we find something considered a “health hazard”, we can take legal action. You might be issued a Provincial Offence Notice (ticket) or an Order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act. An Order might mean the food premises operator has to close the premises.
Sometimes emergencies happen. Know what to do to keep food safe.
The main concerns with flooding are:
- Contamination of surfaces, equipment, utensils, and food.
- The risk of food-borne illness (higher if sewage backs up and causes contamination).
To decrease the risk of food-borne illness during a flood, take these actions:
- Notify a public health inspector immediately
- Discard food contaminated by the flood
- Dispose of all single-service items, if contaminated
- Repair any damage
- Clean and sanitize ceilings, walls, and floor, if contaminated
- Wash and sanitize all equipment, utensils, and food surfaces
- Increase air circulation in the food premises or use a dehumidifier. This speeds the drying process and prevents the growth of mould.
Fact sheet: Food Safety After a Flood (PDF, 2 pages)
The Medical Officer of Health (MOH) issues a Boil-Water Advisory when there’s a known or suspected threat to the water supply. When the water has been tested and is safe to use, the MOH will lift the Advisory. If your water is affected, we’ll let you know in writing.
Find out what to do to prepare safe food and drinks, clean effectively, and ensure safe water during a Boil-Water Advisory (PDF).
Follow these steps if you’re planning to open any food-related business (including a canteen, grocery store, farmers’ market, restaurant, etc.). If you’re planning a special event, see the checklist below instead.
1. Discuss your idea with us
It’s best to talk about your idea with a public health inspector before starting construction or renovation. The steps to approval of your food premises are outlined in our Start Smart Package (PDF, 6 pages). You’ll also need the Notice of Intent to Operate a Food Premises Form (PDF).
2. Check other requirements
Other agencies might also have requirements. Contact your local municipality (town or city) for information on zoning, construction, septic system, and business license requirements.
Mobile food preparation
Hot dog carts, catering vehicles, and mobile food preparation premises are considered food premises.
Special Event Vendors
If you're organizing a special event where food is prepared, served, and/or offered for sale to the public, follow the steps on our special events page.
Farmers’ market vendors
Potential farmers’ market vendors must apply and be approved by Public Health before selling food to the public at a market. Follow the instructions for farmers' market organizers and vendors.