Restaurant inspection grades suppressed in Bermuda

Sam Strangeways of The Royal Gazette writes that environmental health officials have refused to reveal the health and safety “grades” given to every restaurant in Bermuda.

pati-access-info-bermudaThe information was requested by The Royal Gazette under the Public Access to Information Act but the Department of Health’s information officer denied our application after consultation with Susan Hill Davidson, the acting Chief Environmental Health Officer, on four grounds.

This newspaper sought the information in order to publish a list of all restaurants and their most recent grades, similar to the inspection lookup tool offered by NYC Health.

The New York version enables members of the public to search a database and retrieve health inspection results for each of New York City’s 24,000 restaurants before deciding where to eat.

It also mandates disclosure on the entrance, using letter grades (NY.C. and L.A.) or color grades (Toronto) for example.

In Bermuda, it is estimated there are between 150 and 200 food and beverage premises.

The Department of Health said in its refusal letter that to comply with our request would, “by reason of the nature of the records requested, require the retrieval and examination of such records [and] cause a substantial and unreasonable interference with or disruption of the other work of the public authority”.

Information officer Verlina Bishop wrote that complying with the request would require pulling the inspection records of each individual file of food and drink establishments.

“The files are maintained by street address and are not filed according to food and beverage establishments,” she said. “The environmental health section of the Department of Health does not have the manpower to review and compile the records requested.”

Other reasons given for the refusal to disclose information were that the records contained personal, commercial and confidential information, exempt from disclosure.