Food poisoning: are you liable?

In last month’s newsletter, we invited you to ask us HACCP-related questions. As a result, we received the following question:

“On social media, I came across several complaints of guests who say they’ve had a food poisoning after eating at a restaurant. Since these complaints are lethal to your reputation, how do you know for sure if it actually is food poisoning? What are the symptoms and what is there to know about liability?"

If your guest gets ill soon after visiting your restaurant, that does not necessarily have to be a result of the food, but in some cases it can be quite obvious. If your guest is sick during or shortly after your visit, there is a chance that something may be wrong with the hygiene or (storage) temperature of the food items in your kitchen.

Diagnosis

Some of the most common causes of food poisoning are the Bacillus Cereus, Salmonella, Campylobacter and Staphylococcus Aureus. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps and sometimes fever. In extreme cases hospitalisation may be necessary. If symptoms do not disappear within 48 hours, it is recommended to visit a GP who can make a correct diagnosis after examination. The GP will choose a treatment method and, if your guest wishes to file an official complaint, collect evidence.

Allergens

In some situations, it may take several days for a guest to become ill after consuming unsafe food. The connection is not always clear. When a customer gets ill due to an allergic reaction, the relationship is more obvious. If you haven’t properly informed your customer about the presence of allergens, you are liable for any resulting costs as a restaurant owner.

Research

Complaints must first be submitted to the restaurant itself. In addition, your guest may request the local Environmental Health Department to conduct an investigation. With sufficient evidence for further investigation, an inspector will take samples at the restaurant for bacteriological research. In case of unhygienic circumstances, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) may impose a fine or oblige the restaurant to take corrective action.

Do you have other HACCP-related questions? At LabelLord, we are happy to answer them. Simply send us your question and we will try to answer one or two questions in each subsequent newsletter.


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