Food safety has become a substantial concern the ACT, as newly released documents point to an increase in the number of responses to food safety violations.

 

The documents, which were released to the public in response to an unindentified Freedom of Information (FOI) request, show that the number of prohibition orders sent to ACT restaurants for food safety violations has increased from nine in 2010 to 42 in 2011.

 

Prohibition orders prevent businesses from handling food until food safety regulations are complied with.

 

By 30 March, the documents show that 18 prosecution briefs relating to food safety violations had also been submitted for consideration in 2012, while an additional 28 were being prepared.

 

My Café, Gus’ Café, Blu Ginger, Jewel of India in Civic, Café Garema, Prince Palace, Belconnen Halal Market and Kingsley’s Chickens were among the restaurants that had been issued with closure notices, according to the documents. Many of the businesses have since re

 

Health Protection Service director John Woollard told ABC that food safety violations become even more problematic in situations where restaurants are in breach of numerous safety requirements.

 

“Vermin infestations, rats, mice, cockroaches, through to filthy businesses, temperature control where foods aren’t maintained at the correct temperature, a lack of hand washing facility, those sorts of things,” he said.

 

The increase in food safety activity has prompted the ACT Government to consider new regulations on food businesses, including a requirement for businesses to display a food safety rating at their venue.

 

The proposed requirement has attracted substantial criticism from restaurant and business owners, who have complained that food safety ratings would be detrimental and lack credibility.

 

“The ACT Government would need to employ the equivalent of nine full time employees dedicated solely to undertaking inspections. This raises issues of consistency in the assessments undertaken and the need for inspectors to be field assessed,” stated a submission from the Australian Food and Grocery Council.

 

Government groups have generally been more supportive of the scheme.

 

“Consumers will use the rating to consider where they dine. A more transparent regulatory system will provide consumers with confidence in the regulatory system and subsequently in the food system,” stated a submission from the Queensland Government’s Food Safety Policy and Regulation Unit.