Vancouver Food Safety Regulations

Vancouver restaurants and foodservice operators must follow the provincial regulations for food safety in British Columbia, but they’re also subject to city and municipal regulations, depending on their location.

The province has five regional health authorities but metro Vancouver and the surrounding area fall under the jurisdiction of Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), which covers Richmond, Vancouver, North Shore, Sea-to-Sky Corridor, Sunshine Coast, Powell River, Bella Bella and Bella Coola.

VCH’s wide-ranging remit includes food safety. Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) regulate the source, storage, handling, preparation and transportation of food for public consumption. 

Vancouver Foodservice Permits & Approvals

All foodservice establishments must have a valid annual permit, issued by a VCH EHO. These permits are not transferable to other operators or for temporary events.

Permits are issued once an EHO has performed an on-site inspection looking at issues such as food storage, temperature control, cleanliness of food contact surfaces and equipment, hand washing facilities, waste management and pest control measures.

To get a food service permit, foodservice establishments must also provide:

  • Menu
  • Floor plan review
  • Completed application form
  • Certificate of Incorporation (if applicable)
  • Food Safety & Sanitation Plan
  • FOODSAFE Level 1 Certificate (or equivalent food handler certification)

Vancouver Restaurant Inspections

VCH conducts over 16,000 inspections of restaurants, food facilities, and stores annually to ensure they meet all food safety standards and regulations - visiting more than 6000 food service establishments, and 3500 food stores and processors every year.

These restaurant inspections are performed regularly and will also be done if the VCH receives a complaint about an establishment. Following an inspection, the EHO will draw up a report - either confirming that the operator is in compliance with all applicable food safety regulations and requirements, or listing the areas where they need to do better.

Vancouver Food Handler Training

British Columbia’s Food Safety Act states that all operators of food service establishments must hold a valid FOODSAFE or equivalent food handler certificate issued by a health officer. 

According to the Food Safety Act, the operator must also ensure that at least one employee with a valid food handler certificate is present in the establishment at all times during operating hours. 

VCH also mandates this in the City of Vancouver and area - when the owner/operator of a business is away from the premises, at least one employee with food handler certification must be present.

Food Safety Compliance

EHOs regularly inspect food premises to ensure compliance and have the authority to close a business if it doesn’t meet regulatory requirements. These restaurant closure reports are publicly available on the VCH website, as are EHO inspection reports.

If closed, foodservice operators can reopen once they’ve satisfied the VCH that they’ve met the applicable health codes, but they may also face hefty fines under provincial regulation too. 

Those found to be in violation of the BC Food Safety Act are subject to fines of not more than $25,000 for each day on which the offence occurs on a first conviction, with fines of not more than $50,000 for each day of the offence coming with each subsequent conviction. In more extreme cases, violations can lead to imprisonment for up to 6 months, and fines of between $100,000 to $200,000 for corporations in violation. 

The hefty fines, loss of business, and reputational damage of a food safety violation aren’t worth the risk. Make sure everyone at your Vancouver restaurant knows their responsibilities, and ensure staff are properly trained with a nationally accredited food handler certification such as Managing Food Safety - our leading food handler certification course, available in Chinese, Punjabi and Arabic so multilingual teams can learn in their own language.

Managing Food Safety is an easy and convenient way to certify your staff with courses and educational materials delivered through our online learning portal, or direct from your company’s own Learning Management System. Contact us today to find out more.

Individual Food Handler Certificate

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