Manitoba Health found more than 350 violations in Brandon restaurants and cafeterias last year and has convicted five food establishments since May 2013.
About 75 locations were cited by Manitoba’s health protection unit, according to data provided to the Brandon Sun by Manitoba Health.
The most common issues related to hand washing, the use of appropriate cleaning products, dirty kitchen floors, dirty fridges and freezers and food not properly labelled, covered or stored.
The Brandon Sun collated all the provided reports and have placed them on an interactive map that is at the bottom of this story.
Most of the issues are fairly minor, said Mike LaBlanc, Manitoba’s chief public health inspector, and most restaurants deal with issues expeditiously before fines are issued.
But not all of them.
According to an online health protection report, the Sportsplex canteen was handed a reduced fine of $150 in October for failing to maintain safe temperature of food; Romana Pizza on Ninth Street was charged $674 in June for not registering with the province before remodelling; an inspector handed down a $1,300 charge to Little Chief’s Place on Lyndale Drive after someone smoked in the restaurant; Remington’s Seafood and Steakhouse was given a $487 charge for not keeping food at the right temperature while catering the Rock the Block concert on Rosser Avenue in 2013; and Mrs. Vanellis Fresh Italian Food in Shoppers Mall was charged $487 for food handling issues and failing to reheat food properly before putting in it in hot storage.
With 19 violations, Mrs. Vanellis had the second highest number of violations in 2013, including issues with food temperature, a lack of space and overall cleanliness.
Since the last reported inspection in April, Soo Sin, the restaurant’s manager said she has addressed the issues brought up by Manitoba Health. Originally from South Korea, Sin also said a language barrier could have been the reason why some of the issues weren’t addressed sooner.
Topping the list of health violations was Roll’n Pin Family Restaurant on Queens Avenue with 24 issues in 2013. The inspector, according to the reports, said seafood was sitting out on the counter for more than two hours, there was no handwashing station at the sushi bar and the dishwasher was in disrepair, along with several other infractions. It appears the restaurant has not been fined.
The Sun attempted to call the restaurant, but no one could be reached for comment.
K’s Oriental restaurant in The Town Centre, which is now out of business, was found to have 16 health violations last year — again, largely to do with overall cleanliness.
The restaurant operators could not be reached for comment.
LaBlanc said inspectors aren’t out to get businesses but try to work with owners and managers to address minor problems before a formal violation report gets written.
Inspectors can issue a closure if a restaurant persistently neglects violations, but they can also close it down if there is a clear public health hazard.
"We have to think if the public’s health is at risk by eating there," he said, which could be sparked by issues such as lack of running water, functional toilets, gross food-handling problems or rodent infestations.
No Brandon restaurants were told by Manitoba Health to shut down in the last year.
LaBlanc said the department has "quite a good" relationship with restaurants, but admitted it does get adversarial at times.
"Some managers really get it and other ones have issues," he said.
One restaurant manager takes issue with how strict inspectors are on new restaurateurs and how quick they are told to fix something.
"I feel like they’re more strict and they give a harder time to new owners rather than existing owners," said the manager, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of his restaurant being targeted by Manitoba Health.
"The worst is the deadlines," he said. "They put the deadlines to pressure you."
Overall, inspectors do a good job and most of the requests are reasonable, but sometimes they go overboard, he said.
City schools and care homes have also violated health codes, according to the report.
Crocus Plains Regional Secondary School, École New Era School, King George School, Meadows School and École secondaire Neelin High School all had various issues, along with Rideau Park Personal Care Home and Valleyview Care Centre. Many issues at school cafeterias, which are mostly managed by a private contractor, related to food temperatures and instances of kitchen disrepair.
The care homes had minor issues, such as the concentration of disinfectant spray.
And it appears as though the province isn’t immune to itself, as it slapped the cafeteria in Brandon’s Provincial Building with a violation. The report said the inspector "observed no evidence of hand washing."
How often a kitchen is inspected depends on its risk level. A small grocer that deals only with pre-packaged items, for instance, has a low risk and is visited once a year.
Traditional fast-food joints that deal mainly with frozen items prepared somewhere else land in the moderate risk category and are inspected twice per year.
Sit-down restaurants, those that prep and cook meals from scratch, are the highest risk and inspected three times per year.
- Twitter: @grjbruce