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Nunavut is still struggling to post food inspection reports online

Territory is only place in Canada where reports aren't readily available to the public by Nick Murray, July 6, 2018

Capacity issues have delayed the rollout of a Nunavut government program to make health inspection reports available online.

Nunavut is the only place in Canada where those reports — which include food inspection reports — aren't readily available to the public.

A CBC News investigation into food cleanliness across the territory, found severe issues at one restaurant in Iqaluit in 2014. But the public wasn't made aware until two years later, when CBC News published the findings obtained through an Access to Information request.

The government said in 2016 it had already been working for a year to make reports available online, but it didn't have the means to do so.

It has since purchased software from Hedgerow — a company recognized by the Canadian Institute of Public Health Inspectors — to build a database for its own inspectors to work with, and for the public to access.

"The initial piece of the project is to get the programming developed so the environmental health officers can use it. Then that would be transported in an online portal the public can access," said Wanda Joy, an environmental health specialist with the government.

"Our priority, our first program area we're looking at is food. Because I think that's what most people are interested in. So that should hopefully come along fairly soon."

Joy couldn't provide a timeline for when the program will roll out — the project's lead is away and Joy didn't have the information immediately available — but in a statement, Nunavut's chief medical officer said getting reports up online is a 2018-2019 fiscal priority.

The government said in October 2017 that it aimed to phase in the database by March 2018.

The department couldn't immediately say how much the project will cost.

Reports address general cleanliness

Since reporting on the violations from 2014 and 2015, CBC News obtained inspection reports from 2016 through another Access to Information request.

Most reports addressed general cleanliness, and food handling and storing practices. For instance, most reminded operators to keep an active log of fridge temperatures, or not to store boxes of food on the ground.

CBC News did not place a request for 2017 reports, but Joy said the trend has continued. 

"There's nothing out of the ordinary. Just as part of any [officer's] job, in terms of doing an inspection, we provide a lot of education [to the establishments]," she said.

"A lot of times stuff that we find is fixed during the inspection."

Joy said the department is also in the process of writing legislation to update Nunavut's Public Health Act, which was inherited from the N.W.T. and hasn't been updated since 1957.

Among the updates for food safety regulations, include requiring food operators to make inspections public, and give the chief medical officer the power to establish public health standards for food served by government agencies, or any government-funded operators.