More detail needed on inspection reports, says restaurant owner

The owner of a Whitehorse restaurant wants the territorial government to include more information on its online health inspection reports.

The owner of a Whitehorse restaurant wants the territorial government to include more information on its online health inspection reports.

The Department of Health and Social Services launched a new website last week that allows users to peruse the reports for over 300 establishments in the territory.

But it only posts infractions that have been committed, without going into detail.

Josh Paton, who owns Epic Pizza, said that could be misleading to the public.

During a routine inspection of the restaurant on Oct. 6 last year, the inspector noted “toxic and poisonous substances need to be stored separately from food preparation and storage areas.”

Paton said someone left bottles of Windex and oven cleaner on top of a freezer, nowhere near any food.

Although that was a mistake, it would have been nice to have that detail on the website, he said.

“How would you understand what the inspector means by that?” he added.

“And how would the public know? It doesn’t really tell the whole story.”

As it stands, complete reports – ones that contain the inspector’s handwritten comments – are only available through access to information and protection of privacy requests.

There are no plans to post the full reports on the website, according to Marcelle Dube, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Services.

That’s because the details of the infractions are meant to inform the business owners, not the public, she said.

The idea behind only posting infractions is to try and keep things simple, she added.

The software used by inspectors allows them to publish the entire list of inspection items, but some of those do not apply to all facilities.

“That means a lot of space is wasted on things that don’t apply to either a food, or a personal services facility,” she said.

“We decided, in the interest of efficiency and ease of access, to only publish the pertinent items that were not in compliance, since this information is in the public interest.”

Dube said this is in line with other jurisdictions across Canada.

But in the Northwest Territories, for example, health inspection reports are scanned in full and uploaded to a website as PDF files.

In Alberta, only infractions are posted but additional details about them are included.

On the Yukon’s website, a disclaimer at the bottom of every report cautions users against “interpreting the status of a particular facility based on a single inspection report.”

Dube said she encourages users to visit the department’s website to learn more about the infractions and what they mean.

They can also call the department to speak with an Environmental Health Officer to learn more about food safety requirements.

But Paton said he would still prefer to see full reports online.

“It looks better for a restaurant owner when you’re doing a good job and you can look at the 99 items out of 100 that were positive,” he said.

“The department’s end goal was to become more transparent but hopefully they realize this isn’t the way to go.”

The health inspection website can be accessed through www.hss.gov.yk.ca.

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com

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