Main Page Content

Our Health Unit works to promote, protect, and improve the health and well-being of all in our community.

On this page:

Chef's cooking in a kitchen

Why are food premises inspections done?

The Ontario Public Health Standards (OPHS) under the authority of the Health Protection and Promotion Act 1990 (HPPA) (R.S.O. 1990. c. h.7) gives Public Health Inspectors (PHI) at the Health Unit the responsibility and power to inspect anywhere food is prepared, stored, or served to the public.

Public Health Inspectors conduct inspections to make sure food premises owners and food handlers are meeting the minimum standards of the Ontario Food Premises Regulation. Regular inspections prevent and reduce foodborne illness in our community.

What is a food premises?

A food premises is a facility where food or milk is manufactured, processed, prepared, stored, handled, displayed, distributed, transported, sold or offered for sale (does not include a private residence) (HPPA, 1990).

What is the role of a Public Health Inspector?

PHIs conduct routine inspections of all food premises to ensure that owners and food handlers are meeting the minimum standards set out in the Ontario Regulation 493/17 Food Premises.

PHIs make sure owners and food handlers are:

  • Handling food in a safe and sanitary manner.
  • Maintaining the food premises in a clean and sanitary condition.

PHI’s also educate food handlers in safe food handling practices onsite and provide food safety resources, including offering the Food Handlers Course.

How often are food premises inspected?

Routine inspections are required to make sure the food you’re eating is safe. There are about 2,600 food premises inspected in Windsor-Essex County. These food premises range from full service restaurants, churches and catering vehicles.

In 2015, ‘Ontario’s Guidance Document for the Risk Categorization of Food Premises’ was released by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. The guidance document outlines risk factors and associated weights for each factor resulting in an overall score for each food premise. Based on this score, every food premises is assigned a risk level of high, moderate or low. This risk level then deems how many times per year the premise requires inspections as set out in the Ontario Food Safety Protocol.

A Public Health Inspector assesses the risk level of a food premises every year during an inspection. The risk level is given based on the likelihood that a food-borne illness outbreak could occur from the food served at that premises. For food premises which provide foods to vulnerable or at-risk people, have previous infractions, have extensive food handling, etc., it is more likely that harm could be caused to the public. In these cases, these food premises require more frequent inspections to ensure the public is safe.

Risk levels (High, Moderate, or Low) are assigned based on a variety of factors, each weighted differently:

Population Served

Vulnerable and at-risk populations (elderly, immunocompromised, children) are more likely to experience serious complications from eating contaminated food. Those food premises serving these clients (e.g., Hospital, long- term care home, retirement home, daycare, etc.) will require more frequent inspections.

Preparation and Serving

The likelihood of contamination increases with the amount of food handling and steps involved in the preparation of food (assembling, cooking, cooling, reheating, etc.). Those premises which have many steps in food preparation are higher risk than those serving only prepackaged foods. Full-service banquet halls and premises where food is primarily catered off site also have an increased risk for food-borne illness.


Compliance with the Ontario Regulation 493/17 Food Premises is also weighted in the overall risk categorization score. Public Health Inspectors review inspection reports for the previous 12 months and determine if infractions were observed. Those with infractions are higher risk for foodborne illness outbreaks than those with no observed infractions.

Food-borne Illness/Outbreaks

If the premises has been confirmed as the source of a foodborne illness or outbreak related to improper food handling in the past 12 months, the premises is weighted a higher risk.

Food Safety Management Plan

If a documented food safety management plan is warranted but not in place, the premises is at a higher risk for foodborne illness outbreak. For premises with management plans in place, they are at a lower risk.

Food Safety Knowledge and Training

Premises where food handlers are not demonstrating safe food handling practices are higher risk. For those who have certified food handlers on site, they are at a lower risk.  Learn more about our certified food handler course.

Once the assessment is complete, the PHI will categorize the premises into one of the 3 risk categories and inspect it accordingly:

High risk food premises:

A premises which has a high likelihood of a food-borne illness outbreak occurring and are required to be inspected at least once every 4 months.

Moderate risk food premises:

A premises which has a moderate likelihood of a food-borne illness outbreak occurring and are required to be inspected at least once every 6 months.

Low risk food premises:

A premises which has a low likelihood of a food-borne illness outbreak occurring and are required to be inspected at least once every 12 months.

For more information, please see Ontario's Guidance Document for the Risk Categorization of Food Premises.

Types of inspections

There are many different types of inspection that PHI’s conduct.

Type of Inspection


Compliance inspection

Routine inspections conducted to make sure minimum standards set out in the Ontario Regulation 493/17 are met.


Follow up inspections conducted when infractions (issues) are found in the compliance inspection and requires correction.

Pre-opening inspection

Conducted before a food premises is open for business. Food premises are required under Health Protection and Promotion Act, (1990) to notify the Health Unit when planning to open.

Complaint-based inspection

Conducted to investigate a food safety complaint made by the public or a suspected food-borne illness

Reporting Food Safety Complaints or Suspected Foodborne Illness

Food safety complaints or suspected foodborne illness can be reported to the Environmental Health Department at ext. 4475. Your personal information will be requested, however it remains confidential. A Public Health Inspector will respond to your complaint and conduct an investigation.

How can I check reports from restaurant inspections?

You can check the latest inspection results on our online disclosure system.

How do I open or move my food premises in Windsor-Essex County?

If you are thinking about opening a food premises or moving your current business in the Windsor-Essex County area, contact our Environmental Health Department to request a Food Premises Package or call to speak with one of our Public Health Inspectors at 519-258-2146 ext. 4475 for requirements.