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Food hygiene and the safety of consumers must always be a top priority for food service businesses. If not, the consequences can be severe, as food poisoning can have a devastating impact on the health of those affected and result in significant fines for businesses, from both local authorities and through civil claims from those affected.

Irwin Mitchell’s specialist Public Health team represented 28 victims of a salmonella poisoning outbreak at the Real China restaurant in Eastleigh, Hampshire, in July 2014. Many of these diners were severely affected with symptoms such as diarrhoea and vomiting which required medical treatment and time off work, and some have been left with lasting health problems.

Legal experts from Irwin Mitchell secured a £275,000 settlement for the 28 people affected. Amandeep Dhillon, Partner and head of Irwin Mitchell’s Public Health team, hopes that lessons have been learned from this case and that food businesses will take extra precautions to protect consumers in the future.
In the last few years it has become increasingly common for food poisoning victims to take civil action to gain compensation. This rise has been prompted by the increased publicity given to no win no fee cases, which have traditionally been focused on victims of food poisoning abroad on holiday, and legal companies actively targeting consumers who have become ill in the UK.

The impact of food poisoning on businesses can be devastating, bad publicity caused can damage brands and severely impact takings, which can in some cases force businesses to close.

Reasons for Real China’s outbreak

This recent case was linked to a wider European outbreak of Salmonella in 2014, when more than 250 people became ill. Following an investigation by Public Health England (PHE), it was found that the outbreak originated from a single egg producer in Germany.

The British Egg Industry Council has since welcomed the news that the victims of this Salmonella outbreak have been awarded with compensation. Andrew Joret, British Egg Industry Council Chairman, said: “Food safety scares linked to non-UK eggs is a recurring issue, and while it’s good news that the victims of this outbreak have been awarded compensation, we hope it will encourage more caterers and consumers to look for the additional safety values of the Lion, so it doesn’t happen again.”

He continues: “The independently audited British Lion scheme ensures the highest standards of food safety and has effectively eliminated Salmonella from British Lion eggs. In 2017, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) confirmed that Lion eggs are the only ones that are safe to be consumed runny, or even raw, by everyone including vulnerable groups.”

Preventing a similar claim

According to the FSA, food businesses and consumers should always look for the British Lion mark on eggs to ensure that they are buying safe British eggs. The British Lion mark means that the eggs have been laid by hens vaccinated against Salmonella and have been produced to the highest standards of food safety.

Salmonella is particularly harmful and food caterers must adopt strict food hygiene and safety procedures to safeguard consumers and minimise the risk of infection.

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