Saskatchewan's public health officials say a problem with the computer program they use to track restaurant inspections is to blame for the lack of follow-up visits to problem restaurants.
The issue was revealed when CBC News examined a new online database of public health inspections of restaurants. The reports contain a brief summary of the findings of the most recent health inspection. In some cases, where an inspector deems it necessary, a follow-up visit is required in 30 days.
However, CBC News found several examples in which restaurants that had critical food-safety issues fell through the cracks and never received a second visit.
The lack of follow-up was first uncovered in the Regina Qu'Appelle Health Region.
Yvonne Graff, the region's manager of environmental health, told CBC News that currently the database she uses does not allow her to track problem cases.
"I think we just need a little program that would pull that information out for us," Graff said. "I think that's a fairly easy thing to do, but I just need someone from our IT department to help us."
The same lack of follow-up was also uncovered in the Saskatoon Health Region's restaurant reports.
In one case, an inspector cited issues related to food preparation, refrigeration and insect or rodent control. However, instead of returning for a follow-up inspection within 30 days, it took the region six months to check back.
Dr. Stephen Whitehead, the Saskatoon Health Region's deputy medical health officer, told CBC News that he could not explain the delay.
"In some cases, we don't make it — sometimes, through the pressures of work; other [times], through administrative slip ups," Whitehead said.
Late inspections of two Saskatoon establishments took place this week, according to Whitehead. Both restaurants, he said, had dealt with their deficiencies.