Toronto chefs are having trouble digesting the city’s new food poisoning snitch line.
The GastroBusters six-month pilot project was launched late June as a “secure and confidential” way for diners to report online the details of their food poisoning illness to Toronto Public Health.
But some restaurateurs say the anonymous nature of the program lends itself to abuse by ill-willed diners and competitors making false claims.
“They can say anything they want and call it in,” celebrity chef Mark McEwan, of the McEwan Group, said Monday.
“Someone could have dysentery or a stomach thing and then all of a sudden, they have food poisoning,” added the Toronto-based chef, who had a show on Food Network Canada called The Heat. “In 95% of cases, it’s not that. But when they’re able to say that and they have a forum for it, how do you control that?”
He called it a waste of money and said the health department’s DineSafe inspection program for restaurants is good enough.
“I have health inspectors in my kitchens all the time. I’m amazed by the frequency — that a city with tight budgets has that much manpower,” said McEwan. “It’s just another layer of government that has to be funded and it’s not necessary. There are mechanisms in place now.”
“Toronto Public Health seems to be pretty expert in spending our money to create new programs whether they’re needed or not,” said James Rilett, Restaurant Canada’s vice-president of Ontario.
“I haven’t seen any information that says people aren’t reporting these issues because of the lack of being anonymous. Is this something that’s needed or is this a solution looking for a problem?”
When one logs onto the city’s website, there is a choice whether to leave contact information or report it anonymously. Inspectors will follow up with the person if a contact number left and try to figure out the source of an illness.
The goal of the program, Board of Health chairman Joe Mihevc contended, is not to target restaurants.
“Basically, it’s to keep people healthy and the best way of doing that is anonymity in the reporting and you’re likely able to get a higher number of people reporting that way,” he insisted.
Do we want to keep this system in place? Do you think people are honorable with their anonymous reviews?
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