New Street Food Legislation!
I'm surprised no one has mentioned this yet, as it was splashed on the front page of the Star today:
The provincial government has announced changes to the "hot dogs & sausages only" street cart legislation which will be going into effect on August 1st. Here's the press release:
TORONTO – The McGuinty government is giving municipalities the option to expand the types of food street vendors can sell to give Ontarians more interesting, healthy and safe food choices, Health and Long-Term Care Minister George Smitherman announced today.
“Ontarians are at our best when we embrace the diversity of our people and our culture,” said Smitherman. “By expanding street menus, we are making it possible for our food options to reflect our multiculturalism. We are also helping a new group of entrepreneurs showcase their culture’s culinary contribution to their cities.”
The government has amended the Food Premises Regulation (O. Regulation 562) to allow expanded menu options for street food vendors that will take effect on August 1, 2007:
* Pre-prepared, pre-packaged foods such as salads, fruits and baked goods;
* Pre-cooked foods that are reheated on site such as samosas, pizzas, burritos hamburgers and hot dogs;
* Lower-risk foods such as orange juice, corn on the cob, whole fruit and non-dairy smoothies;
* Local Medical Officers of Health will also have the discretion to approve additional menu items if they are satisfied that safeguards are in place to protect the public.
“These new options will help street food vendors be more creative in their menu offerings, “said Susur Lee, internationally renowned chef and author. “It will put Ontario on the culinary map by showcasing our province’s great talent and diversity.”
Municipalities will still be responsible for determining licensing requirements, which includes menus and locations. Like other food premises, the food vending carts will be subject to food safety inspections.
This type of regulation puts Ontario at the forefront of other Canadian jurisdictions. Enabling expanded menus is likely to create opportunities for small businesses and have a positive impact on tourism. Outside Canada, many large cities such as New York and Washington D.C. already have policies in place that support diverse street food.
Today’s initiative is part of the McGuinty government’s plan for innovation in public health care, building a system that delivers on three priorities – keeping Ontarians healthy, reducing wait times and providing better access to doctors and nurses.
It would've been nicer timing if they'd held off the announcement until the Toronto Street Treats Festival at City Hall this coming Friday, but regardless of that, this is fantastic news!
I hope this really happens and I'll be thrilled if it does. But Toronto being Toronto, I'll be keeping my excitement in check for a while. I suspect that getting and keeping a license and snaring a decent location will not be a simple process. Anyone expecting a plethora of samosa and souvlaki and smoothie carts to appear all around town is going to be disappointed.
Let's also not forget that the same folks that tell restaurants that burgers must be cooked well done will have life and death powers over the vendors.
There is no legislation that I know of, either provincial or municipal, that requires restaurants to cook their burgers well done. It is a popular misconception perpetuated by jittery restaurateurs so they can weasel out if cooking your burger the way you want it and avoid what they think are potentially catastrophic lawsuits.
If you insist on a rare burger you should get one--just challenge the person who tells you about the supposed legislation to produce a copy of it. All the good steakhouses will cook a rare burger without fuss.
I know that...it's one of my pet peeves. But it's a more serious issue than you make it because some inspectors actually threaten restaurants with closure if they don't obey this non-existent law. And the restaurants are so cowed that most don't dare to stand up to it.
The context to the current post is that the very inspectors who do this will have the same discretion (i.e., arbitrary power) to do this to a food cart. And they will.
With all respect, I think that is one of those apochraphyl (sp) stories that is making the rounds being perpetuated by those same restaurateurs. I know a few inspectors and I can assure you they would never make that type of threat. Not only is it silly it could leave them open to all sorts of problems. I would be interested to know if you have first hand knowledge of such threats or are just repeating what you have heard.
I for one welcome some sort of oversight of ALL operations serving food to the public. It only makes good sense. I don't believe that health inspectors hold "life or death powers" over any operation. There are many avenues of appeal open to reputable operators who feel they have been ill treated.
With all respect, this is not apocryphal. Some are reasonable and some not. Some make up rules as they go along. Some won't say a word about dogs on a restaurant premises (at least, dogs not in the kitchen) and some will issue a summons on the spot if they see one. Some will stick a thermometer into a random burger.
Yes, my knowledge is first hand. And, for sure, some operators are repeating rumours that they have heard, but they are still genuinely frightened. Others have been threatened directly with fines and closure.
Of course I welcome the oversight. As someone who eats out more often than most, I don't want to be poisoned. But the street food legislation has been presented to us as being very much at the discretion of these people.
If I'm trying to make a living operating a food cart, chances are I won't have the time, or money, to take advantage of the supposed "many avenues of appeal". If I try to do this, I"m not making a living. What I'll do is whatever the inspector tells me to do in order to avoid trouble.
So if I'm told that the hummus on my falafel cart is dangerous without being refrigerated while my cousin in another neighbourhood is serving hummus without any problems, what am I going to do? Am I going to fight it, which will take time and cost money, or will I stop serving hummus?
It'll be interesting to see how different inspectors deal with dogs brought to a food cart...
I have some great inspection stories, but they don't relate directly to this topic.
Quite agree! Great news! If Toronto has one strength in the kitchen, it's diversity, and this can only help to raise the general awareness of what is available. I heard the piece on CBC Radio 1 and just about choked... I was in disbelief! The idea of street-served somosas, freshly grilled souvlaki, might actually lure me back to the financial district. Only to the good, in my opinion.