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Getting Crook on a Bad Meal

Almost everyone who ate at a new Canberra restaurant last weekend became sick.

Over 100 people were affected by this food poisoning outbreak, with Canberra hospitals emergency departments stretched to the limit due to dozens of violently ill people turning up with diarrhoea, fever and stomach cramps.

15 restaurant diners have been admitted to hospital with salmonella poisoning, and the Brazilian restaurant has been shut down by ACT Health. Authorities have said that they expect even more people to present with symptoms, and they are trying to contact anyone who dined at the restaurant over the weekend.

This is the second recent case in Canberra, with 60 people being stricken by gastroenteritis after dining at another venue. It also has been closed.

One of the diners at the Brazilian restaurant, who was in a group of ten people, has stated that they are expecting some form of compensation.

Although Australian food safety standards rate among the top four in the world, cases like this still happen all too frequently.

The Australian Department of Health and Aging estimates that there are 5.4 million cases of food poisoning every year. While most cases are fairly mild, there are almost 40,000 cases which have serious complications, with around 120 people dying due to eating contaminated food.

In one of Australia’s longest-running legal stoushes, the final 23 claims against small goods manufacturer Garibaldi were settled last year. In 1995 a large number of people became ill, and a small child died, after eating small goods contaminated by E.coli bacteria. One small boy needed a kidney transplant following this tragic event, and others have continuing severe health problems. The lawyer for the claimants stated that his clients had been compensated by insurer QBE, and the South Australian Government had promised ongoing free medical care.

We take a risk every time we put something in our mouths.

In recent years, there have been oysters from a New South Wales lake which was polluted by human fecal contamination. This case went all the way to the High Court of Australia, with the applicants blaming the growers, distributors, local government and state government for being negligent!

Following an outbreak of Cryptosporidium and Giardia parasites in Sydney water catchments in 1998, a legal class action by businesses for loss of business was settled. The final total estimated cost reported by Sydney Water Corporation was $75 million.

We’ve had pork rolls, fruit juice, Semi dried tomatoes, fried chicken, fried rice, bean sprouts, soft cheese, the list goes on and on. But Australian state and territory governments are proactive. In NSW there is now a name and shame website which can be accessed to allow anyone to see food businesses who have been fined for not adhering to health regulations. And a scheme which has been successful in Victoria, is being introduced into Queensland and possibly New South Wales. This innovation includes mandatory employment of a trained food safety advisor to be employed by every food related business.

Changes to Australian food law legislation, now mean that citizens can sue companies and businesses for food poisoning claims under a range of legal mechanisms.