The Good, The Bad, and the Non-Compliant

Petri dishes with mold isolated on white surface, selective focus.

The Valley is filled with a bevy of restaurants from which Acadia students are privileged to choose. Picasso’s, Lib Pub, Sushi Fang, The Naked Crepe, and many more well-attended establishments. The wider Annapolis Valley area is without a doubt a fantastic place to eat. I’m sure that nearly everyone that attends Acadia has had at least a few delicious meals at one of the previously mentioned restaurants. Sitting in my living room, reminiscing with friends about Wheelock Dining Hall and our days in residence, we began to talk about how dirty some people claim meal hall is.  Instantly I was curious and began my standard Google-based investigation. I started by asking myself if I thought there were food safety or health code violations at Wheelock. If there were, how could they be verified? This led me to a larger issue. Are there health code compliance issues with the popular restaurants in town? Again, where would I be able to find this information? As always, Google had my back. Entering the phrase, “Nova Scotia Health Inspector” directed me to public health inspection records.

The Province of Nova Scotia Health Inspector’s website provides a form from which you can instantly request the electronic inspection records for any establishment in the province for the last decade. All you have to do is input some basic information like the name of the establishment, the address, and the period for which you would like to see records. I decided to examine some of the most popular destinations for students both in Wolfville and in the surrounding area.

They include:

  • Pronto Pizza
  • Picasso’s Pizza
  • Paddy’s Brew Pub
  • The Naked Crepe
  • Troy’s Mediterranean Restaurant
  • Library Pub
  • La Torta Woodfired Pizzeria
  • Sushi Fang
  • Wheelock Dining Hall (Operated by our friends at Chartwell’s)
  • Subway

In order to get a better picture of historic compliance issues I examined the Nova Scotia Food Establishment Inspection Reports for these establishments from January 1, 2008 through April 5, 2018. Records are removed from the online database after more than three years so the records I have access to are no older than that. How do the various student-frequented establishments stack up when compared to one another? As is the case of a few of these establishments, I feel it is necessary to get specific with what health inspectors revealed during their unannounced examination of these eateries. All health code violations are up to the interpretation of health inspectors. Not all violations represent a serious risk to health, however, it is worth noting that based on the documents I have examined, all of the restaurants do have some violations. I should reiterate, not all violations are serious. The definition of a “Deficiency” under the provincial health codes according to the Nova Scotia Provincial government is “Requirement(s) of the Regulations or Code not being achieved by the food establishment. The word deficiency is often used interchangeably with the words violation, or infraction.” Let’s see what the restaurants of Wolfville have crawling in their back rooms.

Pronto Pizza is one of Wolfville’s establishments frequented by weekend warriors and is also one of the most concerning establishments. On June 5, 2015, the inspection lists no deficiencies. On December 3rd, 2015, the remarks include a failure to store potentially hazardous foods properly, cleaning required of all shelving, rear wooden counter, milk fridge and some shelving and surfaces in 2 door commercial fridge, washroom toilet fixtures, under and behind equipment some wall areas and all floors. Further, inadequate sanitation systems were observed. However, most concerning of all reported deficiencies is listed as, “FAILURE TO OBTAIN A VALID PERMIT PRIOR TO OPERATING A FOOD ESTABLISHMENT.” More than one year later on September 26th, 2016, the same deficiencies as December 3rd, 2015 reappeared but the permit issue was remedied.

Picasso’s Pizza makes a rad donair but during visits in October and December of 2017 the health inspector noted on both occasions that there was a “Failure to protect food from contamination” and the comments from the October inspection read, “Store chemicals separately from food & packaging. All food & packaging to be stored >6 in./15 cm. minimum off floor. Dry ingredients containers rusted and not acceptable for food contact.”

Next, we move to Paddy’s ,The Naked Crepe, and Troy’s Mediterranean Restaurant. All three of these businesses seem relatively well in order based on their inspection reports. Both Paddy’s and The Naked Crepe received no infractions on their most recent inspections.  In the case of Paddy’s there were consistent infractions during four inspections over two years for “failure to store potentially hazardous food at a temperature of four degrees celsius or less.” The Naked Crepe had only minor infractions revealed in their September 2017 inspection. Troy’s received notices to comply over inadequate hand washing stations in their most recent inspection that took place in February of this year.

Next we turn to the Lib Pub. There is nothing significant to report here other than excellent food and drink. It has been more than two years since their last inspection during which time some basic temperature monitoring devices were reported as not calibrated properly and a dishwasher that could use “Daily water temperature and chemical sanitizer concentration records.”

La Torta Woodfired Pizzeria, I’ve never personally eaten here nor have I heard positive or negative reviews related to the pizza place. Their inspection on April 4, 2018 revealed only minor deficiencies that weren’t related to food safety.

Unfortunately the previous records of relative excellence or acceptability end here. Sushi Fang is without a doubt the worst example of food safety I was able to find. There are some direct quotes from their report that are worth sharing. All inspections took place between July 2015 and February 2018. There were regular violations indicated that suggest Sushi Fang’s operator does not adequately train their staff in safe food handling. Some noteworthy observations from the February 2018 inspection, “Food handler certification of the owner has expired” and, “Raw foods must be kept separate and always stored below ready to eat foods (corrected). All utensils and work surfaces must be maintained in a clean and sanitary condition (corrected). Foods must be stored a minimum of 15 cm (6in.) off of the floor (corrected). Foods when returned to storage must be labelled and dated to ensure proper stock rotation. Fresh raw seafood intended to be consumed raw must be dated and ensure frozen >= 7 days at -20C to ensure parasite destruction.” Or, my personal favourite, “Vermin-proof /seal small opening in building.” This restaurant has some ridiculous violations that would indicate food safety is a serious problem there.

Of course, we have to check out Wheelock Dining Hall operated by our friends at Chartwell’s. During their inspections between the February 24, 2016, and  December 18, 2017, there were eleven deficiencies noted with nine notices to comply issued. Some of the issues did have to do with food safety and “failure to protect food from contamination” the notes from the inspector indicate lack of sneeze guards and uncovered food being left out for long periods of time.

Subway has some pretty decent sandwiches but their record is rough. Over seven inspections in the last three years there were nine total deficiencies with nine notices to comply issued. The comments “The operator has failed to ensure the food handlers have the necessary training” appears five times over two years.

With all that being said, it seems these health codes are in some cases too specific. They capture issues that are not related to food safety. For example some of these establishments were issued deficiencies based on “lighting intensity” or the lack of a schedule to maintain their dishwashers. On the whole, the restaurants I’ve examined here are probably ok to eat at. The fact is, you should always use your best judgment when eating out. For example, eating sushi in the Annapolis Valley is probably already a risky activity.

 

I would encourage my readers to verify the validity of this article by visiting: (https://novascotia.ca/agri/foodsafety/reports/Request.aspx).

 

Disagree with me? Write for the Ath.

 

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