FAQ: New Food Premises Regulations as of July, 2018

Are you concerned about the recent regulation changes to the Health Protection and Promotion Act and unsure if they affect your community food event, organization, or business?  All Things Food has put together a small FAQ list for you to consider based on dozens of conversations that we’ve been having over the past few days.

What is the new provincial regulation called and where can I read it?

The new regulation is entitled Ontario Regulation 493/17 and falls under the existing Health Protection and Promotion Act (1990).  The regulations were filed December 15, 2017 and came into effect July 1, 2018.  You can find an online copy of the regulations regarding food “premises” online at https://www.ontario.ca/laws/regulation/R17493.

How does this affect community kitchen events with donated foods, church lunch or suppers, service club events?

What is says: “This Regulation applies to all food premises except food premises owned, operated or leased by religious organizations, service clubs or fraternal organizations where the religious organization, service club or fraternal organization,

(i) prepares and serves meals for special events, or

(ii) conducts bake sales

Application. 2 (2)(b).

If a religious organization, service club or fraternal organization prepares and serves a meal for a special event to which the general public is invited that includes potentially hazardous food originating from a food premise that is not inspected under the Act, the exemption in clause applies only if the following conditions are met:

  1. Patrons attending the special event must be notified in writing as to whether or not the food premise has been inspected in accordance with this Regulation.  The notice shall be posted in a conspicuous place at the entrance to the food premise at which the special event meal is held.
  2. The operator must keep a list of all persons who donate potentially hazardous food for the special event meal and must provide a copy of that list to a public health inspector on request. The list must contain each donor’s name, address and telephone number, in full.” Application. 3 (3).

What does it all mean? There are a few big pieces to this, let’s break it down.

  1. Kitchens owned, operated or leased by religious organizations or service clubs are exempt from the food premises regulations.
  2. If religious or service club events are happening where food is being brought from the outside of the regulated kitchen (for bake sales, special dinners, community kitchen events) and fed to the public this is ok, but the organizers need to keep track of where the donations came from in case there is a health concern report after the event. Organizers also need to post a sign that clearly indicated that the food available has not be prepared following the food premises regulations.

In direct response to concerns over religious groups preparing select lunches for the Agape Centre clients (as raised by a recent Seaway News article), this form of community kitchen is still legal since church groups are exempt from the food premises regulations.  All they need to do is inform the EUHO using this online form and then post a sign that clearly says: “the food was not prepared in accordance with the Ontario regulation 493/17 under the Health Protection and Promotion Act (1990)”.  Organizers should also keep track of where the donated food originated from in case the Health Unit ever asks for a record.

Direct link to Special Event page.

 

How do these changes affect local farmers’ market vendors?

What is says: “This Regulation applies to all food premises except farmers’ market food vendors.” Application. 2 (2)(c).

Added note: A farmers’ market food vendor is defined as “the operator of a stall or other food premise that is located at a central location at which a group of persons who operate stalls or other food premises meets to sell or offer for sale to consumers products that include, without being restricted to, farm products, baked goods and preserved foods, and at which the majority of the persons operating the stalls or other food premises are producers of farm products who are primarily selling or offering for sale their own products”. Interpretation (1).

What does this all mean?

Businesses selling food or food products at a farmers’ market (or other special events) are exempt from the new regulations and are instead considered under the terms of a temporary food vendor. As a “temporary” food vendor, the EOHU insists that farmers’ market managers submit a special event form to the EOHU for review and record keeping, ensure that 1 person at the market has completed the Food Handlers training and that managers enforce the safe food handling regulations outlined online.  You can read these regulations and find the form online.

For extra clarification and vendor tips, consider the health and safety guidelines produced specifically for farmers’ market vendors by Farmers’ Markets Ontario.  Download the guidelines here.

Local food businesses producing food items that they want to sell in small shops, grocery stores, cafes, etc. (basically anything besides a farmers’ market or special event) do need to comply with the regulations to ensure that their products meet specific safety standards.

 

Does this mean no more food at local events?

No!  As it was before these new regulations, event organizers simply need to inform the Eastern Ontario Health Unit of the event and list all “temporary food vendors”. There is a form to submit 1-month in advance of your event to ensure that there is enough time to process the information.  This applies to catered public events as well.  To submit an event form, go online at https://eohu.ca/my_community/special_events_e.php

 

Do you still have questions?  Call the Eastern Ontario Health Unit at 1 800 267-7120 and wait to speak with the Food Inspectors. 

Not getting the quality of service you want from the Eastern Ontario Health Unit? Consider completing the EOHU online community satisfaction survey. Your answers are anonymous. 

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