Online restaurant inspection reports coming to the Yukon

Yukoners love a good culinary experience, but when it comes to finding out the sanitary state of their favourite establishments, it’s no piece of cake.

Yukoners love a good culinary experience, but when it comes to finding out the sanitary state of their favourite establishments, it’s no piece of cake.

Yukon is one of only two jurisdictions in Canada where health inspection reports are not posted online, with Nunavut being the other.

It took the News more than four months in the access-to-information request system to receive copies of seven months worth of inspection reports from 2014.

But the Yukon government has promised to do better.

In August, it announced that starting next fall those reports will be available on the Health and Social Services website.

The reports are carried out by Environmental Health officers, who inspect facilities to verify that safe food-handling practices are being followed.

Instead of going out with pads and paper, officers are now equipped with tablets and easy-to-fill forms.

Until the website goes live, however, the only way to get your hands on those reports is through Access to Information and Protection of Privacy requests.

The News made a request on Aug. 20 to access the health inspection reports completed by the department between Jan. 1 and Aug. 1 of this year.

On Sept. 16, the government requested a time extension to complete the request. The first documents were sent to the News on Oct. 7.

On Dec. 23, the last batch of documents was received. In total, there were 243 pages from 115 different establishments around the territory.

Food aficionados can rest easy knowing that many of the reports begin with “premises are clean and well maintained.”

A large majority of the reports were a single page, which indicates no or few issues on the premises.

“General cleanliness and sanitation is much improved,” said one report.

But some reports stretched as long as eight pages, with more issues needing attention.

Generally cleanliness was a problem in some restaurants.

“Kitchen is a disaster,” said one report. “Entire kitchen needs cleaning.”

Other issues popped up occasionally, such as storing food a certain distance from the ground, sanitizing food preparation areas and keeping washrooms clean.

Follow up inspections were usually carried out within one to three days.

Benton Foster, manager of Environmental Health Services, told the News in August that the department is still working out the kinks of the new system.

“The system is built to allow access immediately, but we need to work with it for a while to make sure the settings are correct and the right information is being posted,” he said.

“That’s why we’re delaying it a bit, because we’d like to get a whole set of canned comments that would work for all the different permutations for what we expect to find in terms of compliance issues.”

Starting last summer, the reports were being completed electronically using software called Hedgehog.Net.

Foster said a fair amount of field training, using the new software, had already been completed.

One of the department’s four officers had already made about 100 inspections with it by August. By now all four officers have switched to the new system.

Comprehensive lists are being provided to business owners, making it easier for them to keep track of what is being inspected.

They can also request electronic copies of the report, if they want one.

The Public Health Agency of Canada estimates that each year one in eight Canadians get sick due to food-borne diseases acquired within the country.

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com

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