Posting inspection reports of Newfoundland and Labrador restaurants on the internet would not accomplish much, a government minister says.
Since two weeks ago, the public has been able to ask for copies of an inspection report of a specific restaurant, but must wait a few days for it to be mailed.
Government Services Minister Kevin O'Brien said he does not see a great public demand for making that information available online.
"I'm not sure if there's actually an appetite out there to have it, to be honest with you," O'Brien told CBC News.
"We've only had two requests over a two-week period, so that sends me a message."
But Rob Collins, who owns Hava Java coffee shop in downtown St. John's, said having to phone for information — and then wait for it to arrive in the mail — is not good enough if you're curious about a particular restaurant's status.
"If I was going to go out to dinner tonight, I'm not sure if I'm going to hear back from them before I get too hungry and make a sandwich," said Collins, whose operation also serves meals at lunchtime.
O'Brien, though, gave this advice to consumers: "If the restaurant that you're deciding on and planning on frequenting is open, then it's safe."
That said, CBC News reported last month that five restaurants in the province had remained open despite failing health inspections. A sixth restaurant subsequently closed.
Inspectors found violations that included dangerous food handling and no soap for staff.
'Internet easy, phone hard'
Eating at Collins's establishment, Christine Wiik said she would much prefer to look up restaurant data on a website.
"Obviously, I don't want to get food poisoning or anything like that," she said. "So, yeah, I'd do it."
Kenny Hammond said the new system is too restrictive and "would be too much effort. Internet easy, phone hard."
Liberal party critic Roland Butler said Friday that O'Brien's rationale is not justified.
"The real message government should take from this is that it is so difficult to get the information that people are simply not bothering," Butler said in a statement.
"This is completely unacceptable, especially when government has the ability to put the reports online so that they would be easily accessible to everyone."