Formative Evaluation of an Inspection Certificate Program (ICP) Pilot in Toronto

Article excerpt


The inspection certificate program consists of food establishments voluntarily posting a certificate to inform patrons that inspection reports can be accessed from operators or the public health department. A three-month pilot program was evaluated for program improvement purposes. Only 65% of the selected operators were willing to participate, which suggests a challenge to fully implementing the program. Thirty-nine randomly selected restaurant operators participated. Most operators posted the certificate at the front entrance, and patrons indicated that reports were clear. Operators were supportive of the program. Some operators reported that the program was good for business and offered suggestions to improve it. A total of 583 requests for reports were made which suggests that the program empowered patrons to request reports, mostly from operators. Most patron evaluation forms came from a few operators that had no deficiencies, which limits generalizability.


Le programme des certificats d'inspection est un programme selon lequel les etablissements de restauration acceptent volontairement d'afficher un certificat informant leurs clients que les rapports d'inspection sont disponibles aupres du restaurateur ou du service de sante publique. Un programme pilote de trois mois a ete evalue en vue de voir comment ameliorer le programme en question. Seuls 65 % des etablissements selectionnes etaient prets a participer, ce qui laisse penser que la pleine mise en oeuvre du programme ne se fera pas sans difficulte. Trente-neuf restaurateurs selectionnes au hasard ont participe. La plupart ont affiche le certificat a la porte d'entree de leur etablissement et les clients ont dit l'avoir clairement vu. Les restaurateurs etaient en faveur du programme. Certains d'entre eux ont dit que cela aidait leur commerce et ont offert des suggestions pour l'ameliorer. Cinq cent quatre-vingt trois (583) demandes de consultation du rapport d'inspection, essentiellement aupres du restaurateur, ont etc faites au total, ce qui suggere que le programme a habilite les clients a en faire la demande. La plupart des formulaires d'evaluation par les clients sont venus de quelques restaurateurs qui n'avaient rien i se reprocher, ce qui limite la generalisation.

The Environmental Health Division in the NYPHD developed the Inspection Certificate Program (ICP), a strategy of proactive disclosure of public health violations in North York restaurants. Consumers currently can access inspection results of food establishments within 30 days under the Municipal Freedom of Information Act. The ICP allows for more timely access to inspection results. The ICP empowers consumers to make informed decisions about whether or not to frequent an establishment which, in turn, provides an incentive for operators to maintain high food safety and sanitation standards.1

The ICP consists of food establishments voluntarily posting a certificate that informs patrons that the establishment is routinely inspected by a public health inspector (PHI) and that inspection reports can be accessed either from the owner or operator of the establishment or the NYPHD. Upon receiving a request, the NYPHD discloses inspection results in writing within 24 hours.

Several disclosure programs2-5 were reviewed, and the ICP was designed to be similar to the Ottawa-Carleton Health Department's disclosure strategy, which consists of food services establishments voluntarily posting an information plaque. Ninety percent of the establishments posted plaques in 1993.2 There is little documentation on the evaluation of Ottawa's program.

Disclosing public health inspection reports has not been adequately evaluated. The ICP was in an early stage of development, therefore, a formative evaluation, which focuses on program improvement, was more appropriate than an evaluation of the program's merit. A program needs to be well conceptualized and of good quality before its effectiveness can be properly assessed. …