Frequently Asked Questions

What is ChooseWise?

ChooseWise is an online website created by the Northwestern Health Unit where local food premises inspection results are shared and are directly accessible to the public.

What information can I find on ChooseWise?

ChooseWise is a tool that allows the public to search for food premises inspection results by establishment name, type and community. Information that is provided about each food premises includes:

  • The location of the food premises by address and location on a map,

  • A list of inspections for each premises 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.

Why is the health unit starting the ChooseWise program?

The Northwestern Health Unit has a mandate to disclose the results of food safety inspections to the public. Research on food disclosure programs like ChooseWise has shown that they:

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

  • Help improve food safety standards,

  • Increase compliance with food safety legislation, and

  • Increase the public’s confidence in food inspection and the food industry.

What food premises inspections will be on ChooseWise?

The ChooseWise program applies to all public food premises such as:

  • Restaurants, bars, grocery stores, public banquet facilities,

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

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

  • ChooseWise does not apply to one time special events or farmers’ markets.

You are able to sort ChooseWise food premises by facility type if you are interested in a particular kind of food premises.

Do food premises have to participate in ChooseWise?

Yes. All food premises that serve the public in the Northwestern Health Unit region will have their inspection results available on the ChooseWise site. Food premises are given ChooseWise decals that they can voluntarily post in their establishment to advertise the program.

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

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.

What do public health inspectors look for during an inspection?

Public health inspectors look to see if food premises are meeting the minimum requirements of Ontario Food Premises Regulation. These include:

  • Food is stored, prepared, and cooked at safe temperatures,

  • Food is protected from contamination and adulteration,

  • Food preparation surfaces and equipment are kept clean and sanitary,

  • Pests are controlled, and

  • Food handlers have good hygiene and safe food handling practices.

How often are food premises inspected?

How often a food premises is inspected depends on the level of risk for each premises and 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. are they a vulnerable group like young children or the frail elderly.

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.

Do the food premises know when they will be inspected?

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

What happens if an inspection of a food 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 food 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.

Who do I call if I have a complaint about a food premises or a food product?

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. Please see contact information in the contact section of this website.

How can I learn more about food safety?

The Northwestern Health Unit provides safe food handler training to become a certified food handler. Information about upcoming courses can be found at www.nwhu.on.ca or by contacting your local Northwestern Health Unit office for more information.