Cora Pizza Shut Down due to Rat Infestation
Long-time Annex and University of Toronto student favourite Cora Pizza didn't get off so lucky yesterday. While a mouse infestation at a Warden station coffee shop earned a conditional pass, Cora Pizza, (the One Stop Pizza Shop) has been shut down by Toronto Public Health (TPH) due to what has been described as worsening food safety and hygiene conditions in their kitchen. Specifically, closure was forced when the operator failed to prevent a rodent infestation and to prevent gross unsanitary conditions.
Complaints about the pizzeria have been ongoing and he situation appears to have gotten worse since previous failed inspections were remedied.
According to a Toronto Public Health inspector, discovered during yesterday's (December 21, 2009) inspection was a bucket (that was used for pizza sauce) showing obvious "signs of contamination with dirt and mold," but worse yet was the finding of "dead rats and rat droppings in the kitchen."
Previous inspections in March and June of this year found a long list of infractions, including failure to:
- ensure food is not contaminated/adulterated
- use proper procedure(s) to ensure food safety
- provide hand washing supplies
- provide adequate pest control
- (along with many more significant and minor infractions)
In June, the restaurant was also slapped with bylaw infractions for failure to "upon request by any person, produce the food safety inspection report or reports relating to the currently posted food inspection notice for such establishment." (By law, operators of restaurants with TPH's red "CLOSED" notices posted are required to produce the most recent inspection report to any person who requests to view it.)
On a related note, it would appear that honesty isn't on Cora Pizza's menu. This morning, when I visited the shop and asked staff about the reasons for their closure, I was curtly told that they were "fixing a gas line" and that they'd "be open in about an hour or two." Unaware that it was within my rights to request to view the recent inspection report, I didn't request to view it.
Despite an expanding history of food safety and hygiene infractions, Cora's maintains a loyal following, and is ranked highly on blogTO readers' list of best pizza slices in the city. The pizzeria will remain closed until fixes are implemented and approval from Toronto Public Health is achieved.
DineSafe, the City of Toronto web site that reveals restaurant inspection findings to the public, has all the detailed inspection history and findings.
I spoke with Jim Chan, Manager of Toronto Public Health's Food Safety Program, who filled me in on some of the challenges and progress made by DineSafe. The program is responsible for monitoring compliance at over 16,000 food premises (including over 6000 restaurants, and street vendors, hospitals, schools, etc.) with a force of just 81 inspectors. That said, operator compliance at food premises has gone up dramatically - from 78% (in 2001), to a very impressive 92% (the average compliance for 2007-2009 inclusive). In 2009 alone, TPH has mandated 37 premise closings and laid 463 charges. Worth noting as well, is that infractions deemed to be "crucial" and "significant" are on the decrease.