Downtown Yellowknife eateries battling bugs, say inspectors

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Health inspectors say two establishments in the same downtown Yellowknife mall are "trying to do their best" with insect problems.

The restaurants, inside the upper Centre Square Mall, had a range of insect concerns detailed on their most recent food inspection reports.

Peter Workman, the Northwest Territories' chief environmental health officer, said "there is no public health hazard as it stands."

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Inspections carried out in mid-October identified concerns in both A&W and Main Street Donair and Falafel, which back on to each other within the mall.

"More needs to be done to address cockroaches," reads the inspection report prepared for A&W and published by the NWT's environmental health team – which also called for the kitchen's food preparation area to receive "a good, general cleaning."

Main Street Donair and Falafel received an inspection on the same day – October 11, 2018 – which notes the premises "need to be treated for insects" and suggests insects were found in a food preparation area, though the type of insect was not specified.

Under the criteria of the NWT's inspection reports, both premises were found not to have "adequate protection from vermin or insect pests."

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However, Workman said operating a restaurant within a large building like Centre Square Mall can often present challenges that lie outside individual business owners' control.

'Lateral movement'

"In larger facilities, it’s not unusual for there to be some pest activity," said Workman, whose team is responsible for a range of human health inspections ranging from food establishments and drinking water to daycares and public pools.

"It is challenging and difficult to get rid of cockroaches once they become established in a building," he added.

"Roaches do move vertically and horizontally. For example, if you treat only one apartment and not the surrounding apartments, you can have lateral movement to where they are not treated. It’s an ongoing process.

"The operators in all of these cases have been working on this problem and trying to do their best. We are not at the point of having a giant infestation."

Earlier this month, a Yellowknife resident contacted Cabin Radio to report witnessing another customer's encounter with a cockroach while inside A&W. That followed the sharing online of a video which appeared to show a cockroach at another establishment, which has since closed, within the same mall.

Following up

Belen Baltazar, manager of A&W in Yellowknife, said in a brief interview she was unaware of any recent sightings of insects on the premises, and said the business deploys a range of pest control measures.

The management of Main Street Donair and Falafel could not be reached by Cabin Radio. A member of staff said the owner was out of the country.

In both cases, the food inspector did not check a box on the report indicating the need for a follow-up inspection – though Workman said that did not fully reflect how inspectors would handle the problem.

"There will be follow-ups done on it," he said. "This is an ongoing situation that we’ve had. We’ve had reports of pests in that building for a couple of years now.

"[The reports] could equally have been ticked as being for re-inspection, and we do also follow up sometimes by telephone."

Workman said the issue as it stands does not pose a public health risk warranting the closure of either business, but that option is available to inspectors if required.

Inspectors found no similar concerns at Ja-Pain, a Japanese bakery in the vicinity of A&W and Main Street Donair and Falafel within the same mall, when they visited on the same date. A Tim Hortons outlet lower in the mall had no insect concerns identified in a July inspection.

With files from Sarah Pruys

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