(Fly party! …dont worry, this was taken in the Philippines. Yuck!)

Feeling a little queazy from last night’s dinner? Even though you knew the place was kinda sketchy, you wanted to try it out anyway? Or maybe you noticed unsanitary conditions – dirty washrooms, cooks not washing hands, improper food handling or even rodents and pests?

Your best line of defence is your Public Health Inspector. I sat down with a recent grad of BCIT’s Health Inspection program to talk a little about the procedure of reporting, what warrants a report and how often places get inspected.

While many restaurants find that Health Inspectors are the bane of their existence, they help keep the customers and the restaurants happy, open and in business. By following proper food handling techniques and working alongside your health inspector, you will keep your business running and stay away from seriously harming your patrons.

How to Report a Foodborne Illness/Unsanitary Conditions:

The most effective way is to use their online feedback report located here.

Phone numbers:
Richmond:     604-233-3147
Vancouver:    604-675-3800 ƒ
Whistler:        604-932-3202

A health inspector will get back to you within 24-48 hours of your request, address the issue (usually by means of inspection) and write a report. Then they will call you back with their general findings are. If you call with food poisoning, they will investigate the restaurant but be wary that if there aren’t any other complaints stemming to the same restaurant, then it can’t be fully proven that you were poisoned by that particular restaurant.

When there are multiple cases of food poisoning from a specific restaurant and if the affected people do visit the hospital, they will take a look at the results of the tests and see if there is a certain bacteria found in all cases. Example: Salmonella found in all affected patrons’ blood test results – the health inspector will look into the eggs and chicken in the restaurant. From this, depending on the case – corrective action will take place, but most of the time, it doesn’t warrant the restaurant to be shut down.

“Closures can range from 24 hours to a few hours, to a week, depending on how long it takes to correct the problem.”

If a health inspector feels that there is a great deal of infestation or no hot water, this can warrant a closure. Depending on how long it takes the restaurant to fix this problem will be how long this restaurant will stay closed. The restaurant will then have to call the inspector to do a re-inspection before they are able to open again. Most places have a yearly inspection, but some places get inspected every time there is an infraction and a followup.

I asked the grad what would be grounds for him to complain and he said – rodents.

“Usually when it’s dark, they look for food, they feed and go back into hiding. So if they’re out in daylight, that usually means that there’s not enough food for all of them. So if there’s one coming out for food, there’s usually more [rodents] somewhere else.”

Health Inspectors do more than just inspect restaurants: they test water and air quality, respond to complaints regarding pest management, sanitation and noise. They make sure we have clean water, clean air and that there is no obstruction made by noise and our city and it’s suburbs stay clean.

Finally, here is the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority’s list of inspections that are pretty up to date. This is to keep the public informed and doesn’t necessarily include all the details in a health inspector’s report, but enough information for you to look over: http://www.foodinspectionweb.vcha.ca/