Frequently Asked Questions

How does the health unit disclose public health inspection results?

The results of public health inspections are available to the public in three ways:

What is ChooseWise?

ChooseWise is our inspection disclosure program through which public health inspections are shared with the public. It includes an online website, where local public health inspection results are shared and are directly accessible to the public, as well as signs reflecting certain premise’s most recent inspection results posted on-site.

Why has the health unit started the ChooseWise program?

The Northwestern Health Unit is mandated by the Ontario Public Health Standards to disclose the results of public health inspections to the public. Research on inspection disclosure programs like ChooseWise has shown that they:

  • Help to reduce the risk of food-borne illness,

  • Help to reduce the risk of infection,

  • Help improve food safety standards,

  • Increase compliance with health and safety legislation, and

  • Increase the public’s confidence in inspections and local businesses.

What information can I find on the ChooseWise website?

ChooseWise is a tool that allows the public to search for inspection results by establishment name, type and community. The following inspections are included on our ChooseWise website:

  • Food premises inspections,

  • Recreational water inspections (pools, spas, splash pads),

  • Infection control inspections (daycares, personal service settings),

  • Small drinking water system inspections, and

  • Recreational camps inspections

Information that is provided about each establishment includes:

  • The location by address and location on a map,

  • If the premises has on-site signage, the colour of sign they received,

  • A list of inspections that have been completed in the last 2 years, and

  • A detailed report of each inspection, outlining what the critical and/or non-critical infractions were and whether they were corrected during inspection.

The ChooseWise website will also disclose any enforcement actions on the above premises listed. Enforcement actions include any provincial offences tickets, orders or premises closures.

What premises does the on-site ChooseWise signage apply to?

The on-site ChooseWise signage applies to public food premises, personal service settings, recreational water facilities, and recreational camps.

Public food premises include:

  • Restaurants, bars, grocery stores, public banquet facilities

  • Institutional food service establishments – i.e. hospitals, daycares

  • Mobile food premises – i.e. hot dog carts, chip trucks.

  • Home-based food businesses

  • ChooseWise inspections do not apply to one-time special events or farmers’ markets.

Personal service settings include:

  • Manicures, pedicures, nail treatments

  • Waxing, facials, hair design, electrolysis, laser hair removal

  • Tattoos, micropigmentation

  • Piercings

  • Tanning

  • Various aesthetic services

Recreational water facilities include:

  • Public pools

  • Public spas

  • Splash pads

Recreational camps include all camps for recreational activities on a site in which sleeping and eating facilities are provided for temporary occupancy, with or without charge, for five or more persons who are under eighteen years of age or people with disabilities.

What do the coloured signs mean?

As of February 2020, operators are required to post a temporary disclosure sign. Throughout 2020, premises will receive an updated coloured sign based on their inspection results.

For food premises and personal service settings, you may see either a green “PASS” sign, a yellow “CONDITIONAL PASS” sign, or a red “CLOSURE” sign. For recreational camps and water facilities, there will be either a green “PASS” or red “CLOSURE”.

For more information on the on-site disclosure program, click here.

Do premises have to participate in ChooseWise?

Yes. All premises that are inspected by the Northwestern Health Unit will have their inspection results available on the ChooseWise website. Food premises, personal service settings, recreational water facilities, and recreational camps that serve the public in the Northwestern Health Unit region will also be required to post coloured on-site signage based on their inspection results.

How often will the inspection results be updated on the ChooseWise website?

New inspection results are uploaded at least on a weekly basis and as often as daily. The Northwestern Health Unit will keep the ChooseWise site as up-to-date as possible.

How often are premises inspected?

Premises vary in the regularity of inspections.

How often a food premises is inspected depends on the level of risk for each premises. High-risk premises are inspected at least every 4 months, medium-risk premises are inspected at least every 6 months, and low-risk premises are inspected at least every 12 months. Risk level is based on:

  • How much food is served,

  • Past inspection results,

  • Number of food preparation steps involved in preparing the food, and

  • Whom the food is being served to – i.e. vulnerable groups like young children or older adults.

Personal service settings are inspected every 12 months for low-risk premises and every 6 months for high-risk premises. Risk level is determined based on the type of services they provide and the premises’ past compliance history.

Recreational water facilities are inspected at least 4 times per year.

Recreational camps and Daycares are inspected once per year.

Small drinking water systems are inspected either every 2 or 4 years depending on the risk. High risk premises are inspected every 2 years and moderate and low risk premises are inspected every 4 years. More frequent inspections may occur if the small drinking water system also prepares and serves food to the public.

Do the premises know when they will be inspected?

No. The vast majority of public health inspections are done without any notice to the premises. On rare occasions exceptions have to be made, for instance when a premises doesn’t have regular operating hours and/or is located a very long distance from the home office.

What happens if an inspection of a premises finds critical infractions?

If public health inspectors find critical infractions during an inspection they immediately address the issue with the operator and record it on the inspection report. Rarely, a very serious critical infraction can result in a closure order to the premises, but more often the operator corrects the issue while the inspector is on-site or the operator is given a short time to correct the issue. The public health inspector returns for a re-inspection to confirm that the infractions have been corrected. If a premises must be closed for health and safety reasons, they must display a red ChooseWise sign.

Who do I call if I have a complaint about a premises, a product for sale, a missing or suspicious inspection sign, or a service being offered?

You can call a public health inspector at your local Northwestern Health Unit office during regular working hours – Monday to Friday 8:30 am to 4:30 pm to talk about any aspect of food safety or infection control. For contact information, click here.

How do I participate in ChooseWise as a prospective/new premises owner or operator?

Visit our Owner/Operator page to learn how to connect with the Northwestern Health Unit and ensure you are following the Ontario regulations.