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Dark Red: License has been revoked for non-compliance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

Dining out should not be a high risk adventure

Calgary is taking some heat for a lack of effort to have full health inspections on all Calgary restaurants.

Get the details here:

I think that most people take it for granted that the government agencies responsible for taking action to maintain a certain level of quality in food preparation and sanitization are working non stop for the health and safety of the public. However, with a report like the one in Calgary with only about 40% of restaurants being inspected must make people second guess their option to try a new restaurant. Perhaps sticking with the ones you like, know, and trust is the best bet.

Enter Scarborough Ontario. Like, know and trust flies right out the window after as many as 37 reported food poisonings and 1 death resulting from poor sanitation, poor food preparation, and an insect infestation at a local Chinese restaurant. This was a popular well liked restaurant with seating for about 600!

Get the details here:

Though it is easy to start with the jokes surrounding Chinese food and infestation this is a very serious matter. Dining out should not be a high risk adventure like sky diving and white water rafting.

I think the public should demand a higher rate of inspections. Is once a year enough? I don’t think so. A lot can happen in a year especially with staff turn over and management changes. Perhaps there should be mini walk through’s during the year on a random basis.  This of course assumes that the annual inspection is being done and the city of Calgary has proven that to be a bad one. Additionally, as we move into the holiday season and business picks up sanitation becomes a larger issue and is easy to over look in an effort to get meals out to the tables as fast as possible.

On a positive note, restaurant goers can help each other. That’s why Canada Food Critic is a reality. Read and write reviews regularly every time you dine out. Report the good, the bad, and the ugly. I have always said that Canada Food Critic can save you a bad meal and now it appears that it can save you more than a bad meal, it may save your health!

As we come into the holidays everyone tends to dine out more often. Please take a few minutes to read and write reviews. Also, if the restaurant you are visiting is not yet reviewed perhaps you can avoid a bad experience by reading this article: on 10 ways to spot a bad restaurant.


Stephen Richardson