Environmental Public Health oversees the permitting and inspection of food establishments in Medicine Hat and area.  Public Health Inspectors undertake this responsibility on your behalf as we work to prevent disease and protect and promote the health of the people of southeastern Alberta. 

Inspection Types
Inspection Frequency
Violations
Food Establishment Types
Inspectors

Inspection Types

Inspections are classified as the following types:

  1. Initial Approval - an inspection of a facility performed prior to its opening to determine if the facility is in a condition capable of being operated in compliance with applicable legislation.
  2. Monitoring - an inspection of a facility performed at relatively consistent intervals and intended to determine compliance with applicable regulatory requirements.
  3. Re-inspection - an inspection of a facility performed to determine if non-compliant conditions noted on a previous inspection have been corrected.
  4. Complaint - an inspection of a facility performed in response to a complaint received from the public or another agency alleging the existence of a non-complaint condition or nuisance condition.
  5. Other - an inspection of a facility performed for a very specific reason, e.g. a recall, that may require dedicated time, resources and expertise.

Monitoring and complaint inspections are normally made on an unannounced basis. 

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Inspection Frequency

Minimum inspection frequencies are established in a document commonly referred to as the Blue Book (A Common Reference System and Operational Standards for Alberta Regional Health Authority Environmental Health Programs).   A comparative hazard assessment is conducted for each food establishment based on factors such as the nature of food preparation, characteristics of the population served, volume of food produced, and the condition of the equipment and facilities.  Food establishments are then classified into three groupings:  high risk, medium risk, and low risk.

Based on these categories, the Blue Book establishes that food establishments shall be inspected according to the following schedule:

  • not less than once every 4 months for high-risk food establishments;
  • not less than once every 6 months for medium-risk food establishments;
  • not less than once every 12 months for low-risk establishments, and
  • additional inspections as necessary to ensure:
    • correction of non-compliance with the Food Regulation
    • investigation of food-borne illnesses and food-borne outbreaks
    • investigation of consumer complaints
    • action on food recall

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Violations

Inspections are conducted to ensure compliance with the Public Health Act Food Regulation and the Food Retail and Foodservices Code.  Violations of the regulation and code may be considered critical or non-critical.  Critical violations are those that, if left uncorrected, are more likely than other violations to directly contribute to food contamination or food-borne illness.

Critical conditions include the following 14 categories:

  1. Water Supply
  2. Food Source
  3. Food Condition
  4. Food Protection
  5. Food Handling
  6. Cold Food Storage
  7. Hot Food Storage
  8. Pest / Animal control
  9. Equipment Sanitation
  10. Utensil Sanitation
  11. Health
  12. Hygiene
  13. Manual Dishwashing
  14. Mechanical Dishwashing

All conditions are checked by the inspector during each monitoring inspection.  Each monitoring inspection report records the inspector's observation for each critical condition as "compliant" or "non-compliant".   Non-critical conditions are shown on the report only if they are "non-compliant".

When a violation is observed, the report specifically describes the violation, the requirement for correcting it, and the public health rationale for the requirement.

When a violation is considered critical, an immediate corrective action is required by the food establishment operator and a re-inspection is conducted within 5 working days.  When a violation is considered non-critical, more time is generally permitted for corrective action.

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Food Establishments Types

Food establishments are classified in three categories:

  1. Food Service Establishment - means a facility that primarily prepares individual food items selected by patrons from a menu and which are generally intended to be eaten on or about the premises.  Examples include full service restaurants and limited service restaurants.
  2. Food Distribution Establishment - means a facility that primarily stores, displays or transports a variety of food products which are generally is not intend to be eaten on or about the premises.  Examples include bakeshops, butcher shops, farmers market, grocery stores, warehouses, bulk food stores, locker plants, vending machines, and specialty food vendors.
  3. Food Processing Establishment - means a facility that primarily mixes or prepares raw food ingredients to manufacture finished food products which are generally not intended to be eaten on or about the premises.  Examples include beverage plants, canneries, ice plants, meat processing plants and specialty food manufactures.

Reports are posted for food service establishments only.  This represents approximately 70% of all food establishments.  The reports for food distribution establishments and food processing establishments may be posted at a later date.

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Inspectors

Food establishment inspections are conducted by Public Health Inspectors.  Public Health Inspectors generally hold two university degrees:  a Bachelor of Science majoring in a subject area such as microbiology or environmental sciences, and an after degree Bachelor of Environmental Health.  After a practicum training period, submission of written reports, and an oral examination, candidates are certified by the Canadian Institute of Public Health Inspectors.  Certified Public Health Inspectors are appointed by the Palliser Health Region as Executive Officers to carry out the provisions of the Public Health Act and Regulations.

Public Health Inspectors practice a field called Environmental Public Health.  They prevent disease and protect health by ensuring safe food, safe water, safe air, and safe environments.

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