ACT News

Restaurant health report card: How did Canberra's eateries do in 2015?

Four restaurants were shut down in the ACT in 2015 for posing an immediate public health risk.

It's a dramatically lower number than 2014, when more than a dozen restaurants were shut down by health authorities after being hit with prohibition orders.

Evidence tendered against a Canberra restaurant in 2015.
Evidence tendered against a Canberra restaurant in 2015. Photo: Supplied

With the Health Protection Service performing a similar number of inspections each year, the directorate attributes the discrepancy to "better working relationships between restaurant owners and food regulators".

"The Health Protection Service has made a conscious effort to provide restaurant owners with the most recent information about food safety processes, the regulatory environment and ways of integrating these processes into their everyday business," a spokesman said.

ACT Health's "name and shame" list shows that since 2011, 14 restaurants, cafes and fast food outlets in the ACT have been hit with fines totalling more than $86,000 for breaches of food safety standards.

In 2015, seven restaurants were added to the list when they were successfully prosecuted and fined for breaching the food standards code, ACT Health said.

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That number does not correspond with the number of restaurants shut down, because it can be anywhere between one and three years before breaches discovered at inspection are finalised in court.

Among the eateries taken to court and fined for food safety breaches in 2015 were a vegetarian restaurant, sushi shop and a Thai restaurant, all for allowing cockroaches into food preparation areas.

Kingsland Vegetarian Restaurant was fined $16,000 in February for eight food safety breaches, two years after inspectors discovered the live and dead cockroaches in the kitchen of the northside eatery.

The owner said he had a moral aversion to killing cockroaches but later brought in a pest control team on a regular basis and had appointed a food safety supervisor.

A Woden sushi shop owner was also fined for safety breaches that put customers at risk, including cockroaches in the food preparation area and keeping the display cabinet too warm. The shop, Sizzle Bento at Woden Plaza, has since closed.

The proprietor of Lao Thai Kitchen in Holt before it closed allowed cockroaches to breed and die inside food tubs, on floors, walls and benches had to pay thousands of dollars in fines.

The restaurant was inspected in February 2014, when inspectors also found food stored in washing up areas, sauces left on benches for eight hours at a time and ice buildup in chest freezers.

Out of 2929 registered food businesses, ACT Health inspected 2368 and issued 388 improvement notices, for June 2014-15.

That's compared with 2851 registered food businesses between 2014-15 with 2171 inspections performed and 357 improvement notices issued.

This article has been updated to include the name of the Woden sushi shop and the fact it is no longer operating.