A Nova Scotia restaurant owner says customers complained about her breastfeeding, sparking a food safety investigation. Hannah Gibson, who owns Rocco's Ristorante Italiano in Dartmouth, said when things get busy at the restaurant she'll pitch in even if her son Carson, who is just eight months old, is hungry. "I was clearing a table while breastfeeding," she said.
A few days ago the restaurant received its second official letter of complaint in six months from Nova Scotia's food safety inspectors. When the officer came to investigate, Gibson said, she asked him "how is this a food-safety issue? His response to me was, 'I don't know. Maybe the complainant thought milk could get in the food.' " Gibson said the inspector told her the complaint "was very much an issue of public perception."
She said the officer then offered her some advice: "Really, in the future, if you can kind of separate yourself so that the patrons can't see you." In a province where breastfeeding has been declared a human right, Gibson said, the investigation has left her feeling both embarrassed and angry. She said it's frustrating one provincial department is handing out warnings while another provincial program promotes breastfeeding in public.
The Department of Health supports several campaigns, including a promotional video called Make Breastfeeding your Business. The Department of Agriculture later apologized for the way it handled the complaint. "Babies in restaurants in and of themselves don't represent a food safety risk," read the statement. "Our minister has been in contact with Ms. Gibson and regretted any misunderstanding with regard to the province's support for breastfeeding," said the department.