City of Toronto launches controversial food safety pilot program

Food safety

Publication September 2015

The City of Toronto recently launched a pilot program that allows individuals to anonymously report suspected cases of food poisoning to Toronto Public Health. The program, which Toronto has dubbed ‘GastroBusters’, allows residents to anonymously report the details of their illness online or by telephone.

Opponents of the GastroBuster program have pointed out that the anonymous features of the site could allow for abuse by competitors or disgruntled customers. Toronto already has a food safety program, DineSafe, through which consumers can report suspected food poisoning contracted from dining at a Toronto establishment. DineSafe also is responsible for inspecting all establishments preparing and serving food in Toronto to ensure that these establishments comply with provincial safety standards. Inspections occur 1 – 3 times a year, depending on the risk level associated with a particular establishment.

Toronto Public Health officials say that the new pilot program is intended to promote higher levels of reporting and to encourage reporting of incidents that would otherwise slip under the radar, such as mild cases contracted at backyard barbecues in which no hospitalization occurs.

In Canada, responsibility for food safety is shared across all levels of government. Although restaurant and food safety is generally regulated at the provincial or territorial level and implemented locally, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is responsible for issuing public advisories when food recalls occur. The CFIA is also responsible for monitoring the compliance of restaurants and food establishments with consumer protection laws, which prohibit making misleading or false claims about food.


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