Newfoundland no longer a restaurant inspection disclosure joke (maybe) as reports go online

The Newfoundland government moved to put restaurant inspection reports online today, making them more publicly available.

Service NL Minister Nick McGrath told The Telegram the reports have always been available on request, but that access will now be easier.

Reporters were told that this is just one step in the government’s efforts to be more transparent.

Public engagement minister Keith Hutchings said the announcement today is, “all about making access easier.”

Representatives of the restaurant industry were at the government announcement, and embraced the move, saying it will bolster public confidence.

Newfoundland fish inspection disorganized, ineffective

Of the 3,575 inspections recorded in 2010 in Newfoundland (that’s in Canada), 42 per cent of them were situations in which inspectors travelled to a processing facility or landing site, but no inspection was done because there was no fish there.

Provincial auditor John Noseworthy noted, “Given that 42 per cent of the inspections were situations where there was no fish to inspect, they probably might want to go back and revisit that, and determine if that’s the best way to go about it. There doesn’t seem to be any sort of plan."

Noseworthy also found enforcement officers did more inspections of cod than they did for shrimp, despite the fact that harvesters land five times more shrimp every year than they do cod.

Another major gap in the system is at Port aux Basques, from where 90 per cent of the province’s exported seafood leaves.

Inspections there were only done seven hours per day, five days per week; of the 437 inspections conducted between January and November 2010 none were recorded in the provincial database.

The government responded the province’s fishery is "intense and erratic," which makes it difficult to do the sort of planning Noseworthy is calling for.

Fisheries Minister Clyde Jackman pointed out that all the province’s shrimp is landed in such a short period of time that it’s tough to carry out a lot of inspections.
Because the season for cod is much longer, more inspections are done.

Derek Butler, executive director of the Association of Seafood Producers, said Noseworthy’s report "reflect lack of a complete understanding of the industry."
Instead of more inspections and better scheduling, Butler said there should be less inspection.

He said meaningful quality control is done by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, as well as European Union and American quality certification.

Roadkill burgers banned in Newfoundland

"I’ve been involved in getting moose for over 30 years from wildlife, and I have never heard of anyone ever getting sick from eating a moose burger."

So says Dave Barker, who works for the Knights of Columbus in Grand Falls-Windsor, Newfoundland.

I hear similar sentiments all the time. It’s completely meaningless.

If someone got sick from a past practice, they would probably not accurately link it to a specific food; if they died, they wouldn’t be around to complain.

But perhaps the bureaucrats in the Canadian province of Newfoundland have gone a bit too …  bureaucratic.

The provincial government recently discontinued the donation of roadkill moose meat, and charity groups say the decision strips them of a vital source of fundraising.

For decades, wildlife officers have offered charities moose killed in road collisions. The charities had butchers mince the meat into burgers, a very popular treat in the province, and held community barbecues and other events to raise money for their various causes.

"It depends on how much moose is actually destroyed in the accident, but normally you get at least two moose burger sales out of one moose, so you’re looking at anywhere from $2,500 to $3,000," said Shane Budgell, president of the Lions Club in Grand Falls-Windsor.

The government’s decision comes after the province’s auditor general flagged problems earlier this year about the department’s donations of wild game meat.

"The department did not always track where all of the meat from a particular animal was sent," John Noseworthy wrote in his annual report.

After a review, the government decided to stop donating roadkill moose meat, saying the practice would expose them to liability if any health or safety risks arose.

Moose are ruminants, and there have been outbreaks of E. coli O157:H7 associated with moose meat (it’s not just corn-fed feedlot cattle; I’m talking to you, Michael Pollan and Food Inc.).

But rather than ban the use of roadkill, why not have better training for butchers and food service types and teach them how to not cross-contaminate and use tip-sensitive thermometers to ensure the meat is prepared safely?