Red yellow or green? Toronto restaurant grading program wins international food safety honor

“We are kind of rock stars in the public health world.”

Sylvanus Thompson, Toronto Public Health quality assurance manager, as quoted in the Toronto Star.

Sylvanus (below, left, exactly as shown, in 2005), you’re not a rock star.

No one in public health is a rock star. You can be a rock star in your own mind, you can be like Chapman and admit it now and then, you can be like Roy Costa and actually play in a rock band, but proclaiming you’re like a rock star in a major newspaper isn’t cool.

Next, you’ll be declaring, “I am a golden god.”

Sylvanus hung out in my lab a bit back in the Guelph days, and I supervised the final written report for his MS, and helped out as Toronto developed its red-yellow-green restaurant inspection disclosure system.

And congrats on that, because on the 10th anniversary of its groundbreaking restaurant inspection disclosure program, Toronto Public Health has become the first non-U.S. health department to win a prestigious award for “unsurpassed achievement in providing outstanding food protection.”

The city’s health department will receive the 56-year-old Samuel J. Crumbine Consumer Protection Award for DineSafe, an internationally recognized program that posts inspection results for Toronto eateries online and in their front windows.

The health department’s 63-page application includes references to the 2000 Toronto Star investigation, Dirty Dining, that sparked the creation of the program.

(Disclosure: it also includes a letter from me).

“We showed the turnaround from Dirty Dining to DineSafe,” said Thompson.

The system has been adopted by health departments in the U.S., U.K. and other areas of Canada. Health officials routinely travel to Toronto from Australia, Japan and China to study the model for their own cities.

Toronto Public Health officials will receive the award in Columbus, Ohio, on June 18.

But that doesn’t make you a rock star.