New health inspection report rules in Niagara have people asking questions

Starting on July 1, the Niagara Region will be implementing changes to the way they display public health information on restaurants.

Moving forward, they will post two years of inspection data–up from one year–and include any infractions that are a result of reports, even if those reports are made anonymously.

Fort Erie Regional Councillor Tom Insinna expressed concern that baseless anonymous reports could be made to target certain businesses.

Insinna told Fort Erie Radio the concern was hypothetical and not driven by a specific instance, adding the public health inspectors employed by the Region are “very professional people.”

He added, “They go about their work and they do it very well.”

He explained his complaint was driven from his background as a police officer, adding that anonymous complaints carry less weight, in his eyes, than reports filed with a name attached.

Anthony Habjan, Niagara’s director of environmental health, said they are required to look into all the complaints they receive, anonymous or not, because it could be an issue of public health.

“Our duty is to respond within our protocols and so as we conduct these inspections, we’re doing a risk assessment, as we follow through to see or verify the extent of which this can be substantiated,” said Habjan. “We are not just posting any complaint.”

He added that if they received a complaint about a certain issue and it turns out to be unsubstantiated then no complaint would be posted.

On the other hand, if a complaint is made and the inspector finds issues, those would be posted moving forward under the new policy.

Habjan noted that the Niagara Region received approximately 1,500 complaints in 2023 with about 800 related to food, and that this change is part of a directive from the provincial government back in 2019 that was delayed by COVID-19 and is now being implemented.

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