Frequently Asked Questions

What if I have a question that isn't in the FAQ? Questions about this website or food safety in general can be directed to our Food Safety Programor visit our Food Safety website.

How often are restaurants inspected? The Ontario Ministry of Health and long Term Care sets standards for how often different types of food premises must be inspected.

High Risk Premises are to be inspected at least every four months. A High Risk premises is one where a wide range of foods is prepared, there are multiple preparation steps and, possibly, the customers are at greater risk of serious foodborne illness. Examples include restaurants and nursing home kitchens.

Medium Risk Premises are to be inspected at least every six months. Medium risk premises are those which have a less extensive menu involving fewer preparation steps. Examples include take-out pizza outlets and sub shops. Bakeries, butcher shops and delis are also included in this category.

Low Risk Premises are to be inspected annually. Low risk premises generally sell only pre-packaged foods and there is little or no food handling on site. A convenience store is an example of a low risk food premises.

I searched for a location and didn't find any results - what happened? Two things could have happened:

  1. The location hasn’t yet been inspected so there is no information to display. In this case, you should see the message "Your previous search did not return any results. Your location may not have been inspected since our website has been launched.Please try a different set of search criteria." Check back later in the year and information should be posted.

  2. The location has changed ownership or gone out of business.

If you are still concerned about missing results, contact our Food Safety Program

What do the "Inspection types" mean? Inspection types fall into different categories:

Routine Inspections: These are the regular inspections required by the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care. These inspections are not scheduled in advance. The operator of the food premises does not know we are coming!

Re-inspections: Re-inspections are conducted to check that any food safety violations found on a previous inspection have been corrected.

Complaint Inspections: These inspections are conducted when a complaint is received about a food premises. Sometimes, a complaint inspection will be combined with a routine inspection if a routine inspection for that food premises is due.

Outbreak Investigations: These inspections are conducted when there is an outbreak of foodborne illness and the food premises may be implicated.

Re-calls: These inspections are conducted to ensure that a recalled food item has been removed from sale.

Consultations: These are scheduled visits, often requested by the operator, to discuss food safety practices, proposed renovations or changes to the business.

Food Premises Disclosure Program - New in 2014 In January 2014, Hamilton Public Health Services will introduce a new Food Safety Inspection Disclosure Program.

What colour are the Certificates?

Under this new program, a Public Health Inspector will post one of three Hamilton Food Safety Certificates of Inspection – Pass (Green), Conditional Pass (Yellow) or Closed (Red) in an establishment.

What does a Green Card mean?

Substantial compliance with the Ontario Food Premises Regulation means the:

  • Minimum standards of the Ontario Food Premises Regulation have been met or,

  • Observed non-critical infractions can be followed up during the next scheduled inspection.

What does a Yellow Card mean?

Significant non-compliance with the Food Premises Regulation means that:

  • A Critical Infraction has been observed that poses a significant risk of food borne illness

What does a Red Card mean?

Conditions in the food premises are an immediate health hazard to the general public. A closure order is issued at the time of inspection. A follow-up inspection must take place before re-opening the establishment.

What is a Critical Infraction? A Critical Infraction is a food handling error that poses significant risk of food borne illness. Examples of critical infractions include inadequate cooking and hot/cold holding; opportunity for cross contamination; inadequate hand washing or unnecessary hand contact with food. Critical infractions are dealt with quickly and re-inspections must be conducted for violations that can not be permanently corrected during the initial inspection.

What is a Minor Infraction? Minor Infractions do not normally pose a direct risk of food borne illness. They include inadequate cleaning and sanitation, and equipment and surfaces in poor repair. While not critical, these conditions are contrary to good operating practices and, if left unresolved for long periods of time, can contribute to risk. Therefore, non-critical infractions must be addressed during inspections and compliance schedules must be set.

What does "Corrected During Inspection" mean? “Corrected during Inspection” means that an infraction was found during an inspection but the operator was able to correct it immediately without a re-inspection needing to be scheduled.

What does "Not in Compliance" mean? “Not in Compliance” means that the food safety requirement listed on the report has not been satisfied and an infraction has been recorded.

What do the Actions Taken mean?

Re-inspection Scheduled: Infractions have been found during an inspection that can not be corrected immediately. The inspector has therefore provided the operator with a timeline for correcting the infraction and a re-inspection has been scheduled to verify the correction.

Food Handler Education on-site: Safe food handling practices have been discussed and promoted with the operator during the inspection.

Product Seized and Destroyed: Foods known or suspected to be contaminated have been found during the inspection. They have been seized and destroyed.

Closure Order Served: Serious food safety infractions have been found during the inspection and an Order to correct them has been issued by the inspector. In very serious cases, the premises may be ordered closed.

Closure Order Revoked: Identified food safety infractions have been corrected and the Order has been revoked.

I wish to make a complaint against a restaurant/supermarket - how do I do it? Complaints can be directed to our Food Safety Program.

What are "Orders & Convictions"? Visit our Food Safety Orders & Convictions website for more information.