On Friday I reported that I received some data as a result of my food hygiene in Fitzroy FOI request to the City of Yarra council. The spreadsheet they sent me contains 1096 lines of data about inspections and food sampling in Fitzroy and North Fitzroy between January 2008 and May 2009.

I have separated out the 357 lines relating to North Fitzroy for a separate post. I’ve also removed 78 lines relating to ‘Tobacco Inspection/Education Visit’ inspections. The number of businesses in Fitzroy selling tobacco to children is a topic for another FOI. I’m just getting started on the possibilities FOI requests represent.

What follows is a preliminary analysis of the remaining 661 lines of data for Fitzroy. This is the information you paid for that the council did not want you to see. While it does not contain business names, or details of the offences, the information is still worth publishing. To summarise:

  • of 48 businesses to receive a ‘routine inspection’, 17 or 35% required a re-inspection
  • of 208 businesses to receive an annual ‘routine 1 inspection’, 46 or 22% failed
  • 26 inspections were made following complaints
  • at various stages of the process 46 inspection results were ‘non-compliant’
  • 9 compliance letters were sent to businesses
  • at various stages of the process 8 inspection results were ‘high risk non-compliant’

Explaining the data

Types of venues abbreviated in the spreadsheet:

  • BEVM – beverage, eg juice bar, coffee cart, etc
  • CAFE – cafe
  • FAST – fast food (such as a franchise)
  • REST – restaurant
  • BAKE – bakery

In the letter I received from the council they explain the categories used in the spreadsheet:

  1. Routine 1 = The initial compliance inspection that ensures all premises are inspected at least annually.
  2. Routine 2 = An additional compliance inspection to check if compliance has been maintained after following up a failed result on a Routine 1.
  3. Routine 3 = An additional compliance inspection to check if compliance has been maintained after a Food Act Order has been complied with.
  4. Routine 4 = A further additional compliance inspection to check if compliance has been maintained after a Food Act Order has been complied with.

Results of 48 ‘routine inspections’

  • 25 or 52% were satisfactory
  • 17 or 35% required a re-inspection

Results of 208 ‘routine 1 inspections’

  • 162 or 78% were compliant
  • 46 or 22% failed routine 1 inspections
  • 38 or 18% were non-compliant
  • 8 or 4% were high risk non-compliant

Results of 44 ‘routine 1 follow up inspections’

  • 42 or 95% were compliant
  • 2 or 5% were non-compliant

Results of 34 ‘routine 2 inspections’

  • 30 or 88% were compliant
  • 4 or $12% were non-compliant

Results of 16 ‘Food Act Order inspections’

  • 15 or 94% were compliant
  • 1 or 6% were non-compliant

Results of 8 ‘routine 3 inspections’

  • all were compliant

Results of 3 ‘routine 4 inspections’

  • 2 were compliant
  • 1 was non-compliant

Analysis

Without knowing the details of offences, I can only hypothesise that the significant minority of initial inspection failures are the result of relatively minor breaches that may in themselves not necessarily compromise food safety.

For example, the famous Bill’s restaurant in Darlinghurst, Sydney, failed an inspection in 2008 because it did not have a thermometer in a fridge to measure the temperature. This does not necessarily mean that the fridge was not cold enough.

As each further stage of the compliance process is completed, the number and percentage of failures continues to fall. This suggests the process is efficient in enforcing compliance.

There are a small number of extremely poor food businesses in Fitzroy that repeatedly fail to comply with food standards. We deserve to know who they are so we can avoid potentially getting food poisoning from their products or services.

There are some NSW statistics in this article that offer a useful comparison to the Fitzroy results.

Conclusion

I have achieved more at this stage than I expected. I thought the council would reject my request entirely and make me appeal. They may be trying to placate me but they are mistaken if they think that this anonymous information will satisfy me.

My appeal against the refusal of the council to disclose the business names and the details of the offences is in progress. Radical transparency is my objective. I can’t wait to get this in writing to the Ombudsman.

food hygiene in Fitzroy – preliminary findings

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