The Quebec government wants to improve access to information about the results of food safety inspections in the province’s restaurants.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is in the midst of reviewing the way it publishes the results. Currently, only the restaurants fined and the amount of the fine can be found on the ministry website. It does not publish the type of infraction given.
Consumer protection magazine Protegez-Vous often publishes the results posted on the ministry website, which it did last week with the list of the 50 restaurants who were fined the most between 2010 and 2012.
Pushap, an Indian restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux on the West Island was included in the list for $9,950-worth of fines that date back from 2011.
The restaurant's owner, Vipan Mohan, said the fines for a number of infractions including a refrigerator that was too warm and shelving units that were not high enough off the ground.
Mohan said he does not have a problem with the fines being made public but thinks the ministry has an obligation to note when infractions are fixed.
"They can put in the newspaper the result of one year, when it’s not good, fine. Nobody can stop them, it’s their duty to let the public know what is happening," he told CBC Montreal's Daybreak. "But also, they should put when it is corrected."
The ministry has looked to other cities such as Toronto and New York City for inspiration and has not ruled out the possibility of putting signs in the windows of restaurants, indicating whether or not an infraction has been given.
In Toronto, signs are colour-coded according to the severity of the infraction: red is a serious infraction forcing the closure of the restaurant; yellow, an infraction that does not affect public health; and green means no infractions have been given.
But Quebec's Association of Restaurants is voicing its opposition to the sign system.
"We think it is better to start with the website and make it really user-friendly," said Dominique Tremblay, the spokesperson for the association.
"It’s true [the signs] are the easiest thing for the consumer to see the colour or the letter but we don’t think it’s the way to go right now."
Sylvanus Thompson, the associate director of food safety at Toronto Public Health, said the signs assure that consumers will get the information they need on restaurant inspections without having to search online.
"Once [consumers] get to the entrance of an establishment, the notice is right there so you’re almost bound to look," he said.
Thompson noted that when Toronto began putting up infraction signs ten years ago, the number of violations by restaurants went down drastically. Almost 50 per cent of restaurants failed inspections before the system was put in place. A year into the new system and only 10 per cent failed.
For now, the ministry has put together a committee to review its system and said it expects to reach a decision by fall of this year.