Inspectors report increase in food safety violations

Illustrative photo: Štěpánka Budková

Newly-released health ministry data shows a marked increase in mandated closures of Czech food establishments by health and safety inspectors. During 2015, 259 restaurants and other food establishments were ordered closed across the county for various hygiene-related violations.

Photo: SZPI
Around 23,000 inspections of eateries were carried out last year, according to official figures from the ministry of health’s food hygiene inspectorate, which is headed by chief hygiene officer Vladimir Valenta:

“The main violations related to operational safety, for example permitting clean and unclean items to mix; also shortcomings in sanitation procedures, poor cleaning routines, and equipment in poor condition.”

In total, CZK 13 million in fines were levied for unhygienic conduct spanning around 4,500 violations. In 919 specific cases, establishments were ordered to immediately address food safety shortcomings. Mandated closures were up by 105 in comparison to 2014.

Photo: SZPI
During 2015, hygiene inspectors also banned 2,000 persons from working in the food service industry for endangering public safety. Meanwhile, the Czech Trade Inspection Authority (ČOI), which has also just released its data for 2015, continued to find incidences in which customers, including foreigners, were ripped-off. Jana Hilmarová is a spokesperson for the ČOI:

“The most typical infringement we came across was giving short measures (or portions). But I would say these were largely minor breaches. More serious is when we found that establishments were trying to charge a so-called service fee. Restaurants, especially in Prague, charging customers a service fee without informing them of this in advance.”

Three different agencies, namely the Czech Trade Inspection Authority (ČOI), the agriculture ministry’s Czech Agriculture and Food Inspection Authority, and health ministry hygienists, monitor the conduct of food establishments in the country. Jana Hilmarová explained to me their respective roles.

Illustrative photo: Štěpánka Budková
“The Czech Trade Inspection Authority is tasked with checking if the pricing information given to consumers is corrects and in accordance with the law; hygiene officers check the hygiene situations in restaurants – whether all the measures are in accordance with the law; and the Czech Agriculture and Food Inspection Authority is checking the content of the food.”

The highest fine levied by the ČOI in 2015 went to a Prague café, which was forced to pay CZK 60,000 for both deceptive pricing practices and for deception regarding portion sizes.