Food standards for workplace meals

When employees in an insolated workplace have few options for meals other than employer's food
By Brian Johnston
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 11/30/2011

Question: Our workplace is fairly isolated and provides lunches (and sometimes breakfast and dinner) on site. Are there any requirements under health and safety legislation or employment standards that dictate a certain standard of food an employer must provide in such circumstances?

Answer: There is a broad regulatory regime in place relating to safety in food service, namely food safety regulations to permit and monitor food service establishments in each province, as well as the federal Food and Drugs Act and its regulations, some provisions of which pertain to food for sale. Further, the Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, of the Canada Labour Code, dictate sanitation standards for preparation, handling, storage and serving of food. In some instances, food service becomes an issue in the context of occupational health and safety legislation. For example, in Quebec, the Occupational Health and Safety Act permits the province’s Health and Safety Commission to make regulations pertaining to food quality in every establishment. However, in that province, there are no such regulations.

Notwithstanding the absence of specific regulations relating to quality of food provided to employees, an employer has a general obligation to provide a safe and healthy workplace. One would expect that the employer’s provision of breakfasts, lunches and dinners on site would be captured by this general obligation. Accordingly, occupational health and safety standards would be violated if the food quality was inconsistent with a healthy and safe workplace.