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Business red tape: No room in rules for bias; Health inspectors accused of food-safety double standards
By Kent Spencer
posted 18-Jan-2012  ·  
Photo By Nick Procaylo
Maj Yee, of Goldilocks bakery-restaurant in the 600-block West Broadway, believes health inspectors judge her establishment more strictly because of its highbrow location.
Red tape is one thing, but small business owners say tensions also arise when different standards are applied in the same city.

"Most red tape we accept out of frustration, because there is nothing we can do about it," said Maj Yee, 43, owner of a Filipino-style bakery-restaurant called Goldilocks, on Tuesday.

"I sometimes question why certain areas of the city have more leniency," she said.

Yee has no evidence of her claim that meat buns are ordered to be refrigerated in some restaurants but not in others.

But she is convinced that double standards occur when health inspectors check up on food safety.

She believes her restaurant is judged more strictly because of its location on the fashionable West Side, in the 600-block West Broadway.

"Obviously, it's a good idea to refrigerate meat buns, but there are some exceptions to the rules," she said.

The Goldilocks brand — "not too hot, not too cold, everything just right" — originated with Yee's mother in Manila 46 years ago.

It has grown to more than 300 stores in Canada, the U.S. and the Philippines, half of them family owned, and is popular among Vancouver's immigrant population.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business says Yee's story is similar to ones told by other businesses.

Federation researcher Laura Jones said one story concerned a health inspector in Kamloops who ordered a restaurant to freeze its sushi.

"Anybody who knows anything about sushi knows that freezing would defeat the purpose," said Jones.

About 6,000 Vancouver restaurants are regularly inspected by 26 health officers, said Richard Taki, regional director at Vancouver Coastal Health, which performs inspections.

"Regulations are standard across the province. They do not vary neighbourhood by neighbourhood, or even health authority by health authority," he said in an email.

Taki said inspectors look at things like food safety, maintenance food handler education and facility construction.

"Authorities work closely with each other to ensure consistency in their approach to enforcement," he said.

Inspection reports can be viewed at www.inspections.vcha. ca.

• As part of the federation's red-tape awareness week in Canada, B.C. Finance Minister Kevin Falcon was presented with an A for his work in cutting the number of rules in the province.

It was the only perfect grade handed out among all 10 provinces, Yukon, Northwest Territories and the federal government.

Falcon said the number of regulations has been reduced by 42 per cent since 2001.

"It's the first gold star I've ever received," cracked Falcon. "I'm glad my mother is alive to see this."

B.C. passed legislation in 2011 which mandates annual reports on the amount of red tape.
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