Restaurant Inspection

In Canada our restaurant are inspected by Public Health Inspectors. These inspectors are hired for our protection. We can not visit the kitchen of every restaurant that we choose to dine at, but we can for the most part rely on our Public Health Inspectors to ensure that our food is handled safely, is not contaminated, and is prepared in a sanitary environment. As consumers we have the right to know what these reports find. It would also be nice to know restaurant track records with inspections. Until the past several years the only findings you would hear of were those leading to a restaurant closure. Most provinces are moving to a more transparent system and the results are now publicly available online. Unfortunately there are some provinces that do not seem to be making any effort at all.

Currently I know of only 5 provinces that are making an effort to make restaurant inspection data available to the public (New Brunswick, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia). Actually, as far as Ontario and British Columbia are concerned the effort is more localized to cities and regions as opposed to province wide but they are making an effort. I can not really say for sure if Quebec is making an effort because I am unable to locate an English site. Matters of public safety should be provided in both French and English  in all provinces.

The provinces of New Brunswick and Alberta provide the best model for how to report restaurant inspections. New Brunswick offers superior reporting and Alberta offers the best organization. I like the search engine for New Brunswick because I can easily grab a list of all closures or all warnings and violations not leading to a closure. Reports are broken down into 5 categories:

Green: High compliance with no more than 5 minor violations.
Light Yellow: General compliance, 6-9 minor violations.
Dark Yellow: General compliance, no more than 3 major violations.
Light Red: Corrections required, 1 or more critical violations, and/or 4 or more major violations and/or 10 or more minor violations.
Dark Red: License has been revoked for non-compliance

This is by far the easiest site to search and to get information quickly. There is a single search for the entire province. We have to look to Alberta for organization of inspection reports. Their site is easy to navigate by region, and each region is then searchable. The problem is that the search is nearly useless as you can only search one listing at a time as opposed to the New Brunswick system which allows an individual to pull up a list of all yellow, or all red listings in an area. Ontario is not as organized as Alberta. Each city, or region, seems to be working on their own reporting system. It would be nice to some uniformity between the sites, The search sites for Ontario listings are reasonably acceptable but they do not offer the same capabilities as the New Brunswick site and thus make finding recent information difficult as well as finding a list of violations not resulting in closures. Take the Toronto site for example, when you search the Toronto site, all yellow or conditional passes as green. Clearly a restaurant with 0 violations is not deserving of the same color code as one with multiple minor or major violations. However, Toronto feel that you only need to know what restaurants are closed (listed as red).

Here is a list of sites where information regarding restaurant inspections is either located or should be located. Please keep in mind that I did not search each site for hours. If I did not find the information readily available in less than 5 minutes I assumed that the information was not there. If the information is there it should not be buried in an obscure page that you will never find. If you locate the inspection reports in any area please let me know.

Yukon: No reporting

Saskatchewan: No reporting

     Saskatoon: poor reporting

      Regina: poor reporting

 Quebec: No reporting

      Montreal: No reporting?

 PEI: No reporting

 Ontario: Reporting done regionally

      Toronto: City initiative

 Dine Safe Toronto

      Ottawa: City initiative

 Eatsafe Ottawa

      WaterLoo: Regional

      OTHER: Regional Sites

 Nunavut: No Reporting

 New Brunswick: Excellent reporting and search engine

 Northwest Territories: No reporting

 Newfoundland: No Reporting

 Manitoba: No Reporting

      Winnipeg: PDF list of closures only

 BC: No Reporting

     Vancouver: Reporting but difficult to use

 Alberta: Full reporting, best organized site

Calgary Restaurant Inspection Slides

When you dine out at a restaurant you expect a certain level of quality control. Part of that quality controll is government inspections. Dirty kitchens or infested kitchens need to be shut down and have problems corrected.

If you live in Edmonton you are safe in assuming this quality control is taking place. Last the city had inspected almost 100% of their restaurants. Calgary on the other hand is not so current with inspections. They only achieved a 39%  inspection rate. So, about 60% of Calgary restaurants have not been inspected in a year. Are consumers supposed to trust that quality is maintained with a lack of inspection? Dining out should never be a high risk adventure and no one wants a bout of food poisoning due to a lack of health inspectors.

Supposedly the city is working on a solution to the problem and hopefully one is reached sooner rather than later. This years audit report will tell the story on and improvements that have been made. meanwhile for those of you living in Calgary, eat in the places you know, like, and trust!

Stephen Richardson

The old Butter Vs. Margarine Debate

This is an old debate that still pops up from time to time. I am not sure why, perhaps people are not getting the correct information. Anyway, here are the facts.

Butter: This is an animal fat. It contains both saturated fats and cholesterol. Both of these act in your body to increase “bad” cholesterol  and decrease “good” cholesterol.

Margarine: This is derived from vegetable oils. The first generation of margarine (Stick Margarine) was derived from hydrogenation of vegetable oils which created lots of trans fats. The second generation of margarine (soft tub margarine) uses a different process and contains very little or no trans fats. It is the trans fat in margarine which was the negative health factor. Trans fat, like saturated fats, increase “bad” cholesterol and lowers “good” cholesterol.

So, in a comparison from one product to another, 1 tbsp of butter has no bad trans fats and about 7 grams of saturated fats. It also has dietary cholesterol. On the other hand, soft margarine contains 1 gram of saturated fats, 0-.5 grams of trans fats and no cholesterol. Soft margarine also has less total fat per table spoon and thus fewer calories per serving. Stick margarine has as much as 3 grams of trans fats per table spoon and 2 grams of saturated fats.

So, if you’re going to eat healthy you should minimize both products in your diet. If you insist on eating one of the products it would seem that soft tub margarine is the better choice. It has no dietary cholesterol, as little as 0 trans fats, almost half the calories of butter, and has only 1 gram of saturated fat. If your choice is between stick margarine and butter, it’s likely a tossup so just pick the one you like best.