Central Market Café Fined Thousands After Shards of Glass Found in Customer’s Food
A series of unfortunate events led to three shards of glass from a broken lightbulb getting mixed into a ‘Brekky Wrap’ before being served to an unsuspecting customer.
In the early hours of the day of the incident, a cook had been working in the kitchen when a lightbulb above the stove shattered. Several pans on the stove were showered with glass and the circuit breaker tripped, leaving the café in darkness. The cook then used paper towels to wipe out each of the pans however the clean-up was rushed as he had to finish his shift.
A second cook arrived shortly after. It was only after discovering an additional piece of foreign material in the meal she was preparing, that she was informed the material was indeed a shard of glass from the shattered lightbulb earlier that morning.
When the Council’s officers attended the premises after receiving a report of the incident, it was observed that the lightbulb fixture where the pans are stored were exposed. Significantly, there was an evident risk of a lightbulb breaking and contaminating the work area below it.
At the time of the offending, no policies or procedures addressing glass breakage in food preparation areas were in place or enforced.
The director of the company, and the company itself (the Defendants) were charged with two offences each, which included:
- selling unsuitable food contrary to Section 17(2) of the Food Act 2001 (the Act); and
- failing to take all necessary steps to prevent the likelihood of contamination contrary to Section 21(1) of the Act.
While the customer was advised, following an abdominal X-ray, that the foreign matter will pass, Norman Waterhouse as the Corporation of the City of Adelaide’s (the Council) representative, submitted that the subsequent events of ingesting foreign matter in food, specifically shards of glass, carry a severe risk of causing physical harm to the person consuming the food.
As a result of the diligent investigation by the Council, the overwhelming evidence pointed towards ensuring that food is free from contamination fell within the purview of business management. Ultimately, it is the Defendant’s responsibility to ensure that policies and procedures are enforced and adhered to by staff to avoid dangerous accidents, like in the present case, from occurring.
Magistrate Millard heard this matter at the Adelaide Magistrates Court on 26 May 2022. His Honour, in his sentencing, began by noting that the legislature requires for all practicable measures to be provided to protect against the potential for contamination. The essence of this case can be attributed to a fundamental failure on the part of the Defendants to address the requirements of a safe workplace.
His Honour then remarked on the ‘unfortunate circumstances’ in which the wrap was prepared. The obligation is placed on the employees to be aware that if there was one such failure, the work area or food might be compromised.
In determining the appropriate penalty, Magistrate Millard gave consideration to the Defendant’s early guilty plea and lack of prior offending. The Defendant had displayed remorse and established a ‘Glass Breakage Procedure’. The Council acknowledged the Defendant’s cooperation throughout the investigation. His Honour was satisfied that there would not be a repetition of offending.
These factors lead to no conviction being recorded against the Defendants however, he was ordered to pay a total of $6,683 to the Council by way of costs and penalties. A victims of crime levy was also payable by the Defendant.
Take Away Messages
The legislature has made it very clear that consistent safe practices need to be adopted by food businesses when handling food to protect public safety. The policy behind preventing the sale of unsuitable food is twofold. The first relates to quality. Consumers should not be paying money for food that contains foreign matter. The second is one of health and safety. Food containing foreign objects can be hazardous to health, both in the short term (i.e. physical risk of injury) and the long term (particularly where surgery is required to remove the foreign object).
The Council has a duty to ensure that public safety is protected. This prosecution sends a general message to the community that the high standards within the food industry are expected.
For more specific information on any of the material contained in this article please contact Paul Kelly on +61 8 8210 1248 or email@example.com.