Dr. Paul says comparing restaurant reports and food festivals is like comparing “apples and oranges”
It's like comparing apples and oranges.
That's how Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, chief medical officer of health with the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) feels about recent statements that the health unit is asking the Festival of Flavours to adhere to some strict food safety regulations, while the online disclosure system for restaurant reports remains under wraps.
"Let me take this opportunity to express my disagreement with the assertion that our delay in the disclosure site and our role in the upcoming Festival of Flavors is contradictory," Roumeliotis wrote in an e-mail sent Monday, August 20. "This is mixing apples with oranges. Your criticism of our delay in online restaurant inspection disclosures incorrectly implies that we are not (as) concerned about food safety."
Roumeliotis said he wants the public to understand that the health unit continues to monitor and inspect restaurants on an ongoing basis.
"The delay of the disclosure system in no way interfered with carrying out our food safety inspections," he stressed. "In the interim, we do have a mechanism for the public to request food inspections, though it is clumsy. Obviously the process will be instant once online."
When it comes to festivals, Roumeliotis explained, the issues are essentially food safety--related, but in a different setting.
"Our stance regarding ensuring public safety (protection) at this festival is not at all contradictory and is completely unrelated to our setting up a disclosure system for restaurants," he commented. "We inspect and work with hundreds of festivals and we strive to strike a balance between public safety and the practical realities facing the varying and multiple locations, challenges, vendors and operators we deal with."
The health unit faced criticism in The Review after stating the ever-popular Festival of Flavours, held in September in Vankleek Hill, would no longer be able to operate as a farmers' market and would be subject to stricter guidelines regarding food preparation.
The EOHU told festival organizers vendors would have to ensure all food prepared by vendors was done in a health unit-approved kitchen; vendors would have to have water on site to properly wash hands and food preparation utensils and Quebec vendors would have to be individually inspected since approvals don't cross the border.
Although a compromise has been reached on two of the issues, the health unit is remaining steadfast that vendors prepare all their food in a health unit-approved kitchen. If they don't, they will have to display signs at their booths indicating the food could be "potentially hazardous."
Festival of Flavours organizers say they intend to comply with the regulations, even if it means some vendors won't attend this year's event.