Environmental health officers help keep restaurants safe

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Kelly Hughes checks temperatures in a restaurant cooler.

Creating jobs for Islanders -

In a place that's known as Canada’s Food Island, restaurants are a pillar of Prince Edward Island’s economy  – and the province’s environmental health officers help ensure they are the safest they can be.

Kelly Hughes, the senior environmental health officer with the province's Department of Health and Wellness in Charlottetown, says she considers it her duty to ensure operators of restaurants and commercial kitchens meet the highest health and hygiene standards. Her work supports Island families and the visitors who come to the province every day to enjoy our high-quality, innovative Island eateries.

“Here on PEI we try to focus first on a balance of education and consultation versus just enforcement,” she said. “We want to make sure there’s an understanding of what things are required. We want to help the business owner as well as the public.

“We work with them to try to come up to solutions. There’s a standard to be met.”

On Prince Edward Island, restaurants employ 5,800 people and generate $297 million in annual sales. A further 1,300 Islanders in other industries work in jobs attributed to the restaurant industry, according to Restaurants Canada, an industry association.

September 25 to 29 is Environmental Public Health Week across Canada.

Hughes and Prince Edward Island’s other 7.5 public health officers spend long hours in the field working in kitchens as well as inspecting other facilities with possible health hazards. A workday could include visiting restaurants, swimming pools, childcare facilities, and nursing homes.

In a typical year, environmental health officers carry out 2,500 inspections.

In her work she has found restaurateurs are eager to comply when they understand the regulations in place and the reasoning behind them.

“Per capita here we have what seems to me to be a very large amount of food premises,” she said, “so it’s in an operator’s interest to run a good operation to keep their business viable.

“The public can’t get back in the kitchen to do a direct check. We are seeing that standards are being met and are working proactively to prevent illness from happening.”

To work as an environmental health officer / public health inspector in Canada, a Certificate in Public Health Inspection (Canada), CIPHI(C), is required.  This is granted by the Canadian Institute of Public Health Inspectors to candidates who fulfill the requirements set forth by the governing board for CIPHI.  The successful combination of a degree from a recognized university, practical experience and an examination are required to become certified to work in this profession in Canada. 

Further information can be found at www.ciphi.ca

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