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Increased complaints of unlicensed at-home food providers in Calgary leads to uptick in inspections, says AHS

Alberta Health Services says it’s receiving an increase in complaints related to caterers operating out of their homes without a valid food-handling permit in Calgary, leading to an increase in inspections of these types of businesses. 

In a statement to CBC, AHS said its Environmental Public Health (EPH) team regularly deals with issues pertaining to food-handling permits in the city. 

“Permits and an inspection system are in place to provide assurances that food supplied to Albertans is safe,” said AHS in its statement. 

“Without oversight and enforcement, the potential for outbreaks related to food-borne illness is increased.” 

According to the AHS website, four Calgary food establishments have been issued closure orders for operating without valid food-handling permits already in 2024. Ten were issued closure orders in 2023. 

That marks a rise in closure orders related to unlicensed operations since 2021 and 2022, when one and four food establishments were shut down, respectively. (2021 and 2022 were years that also experienced lockdowns due to COVID-19). 

AHS said it encourages those who wish to start a food service business to contact its EPH division to start the licensing process so that food handling is carried out in a safe way. 

Gaurav Punj is someone who’s been through that process, and said it was straightforward. 

Punj owns and operates Mansi’s Kitchen in northwest Calgary. It’s a fully licensed tiffin business that predominantly serves south Asian students and families seeking the same kind of Indian dishes they’d get back home. 

A man in an apron stands in a restaurant.
Gaurav Punj said he thinks it’s necessary that food providers operate out of a professional kitchen. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

They serve two dishes a day, which are made fresh every morning before being delivered to roughly 200 customers throughout the city. 

“We also started [our business] from home,” said Punj.

“We were also not licensed, but eventually we knew that we had to be in a licensed place. Without being in a professional kitchen, I don’t think you can serve a proper meal.”

Once he realized they needed a permit, Punj said the process to get one with AHS was easy. 

“I think we called them [and] in two days everything was done,” he said.

“Now the AHS is coming down on many people, but still people don’t understand that they have to, one day or another, they have to be [registered]. They can’t do it from home all through their life.”

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