Food Poisoning Outbreak Leaves More than a Bad Taste
In February 2019, a Salmonella outbreak was detected and investigated by City of Salisbury in conjunction with SA Health. The outbreak resulted in the poisoning of up to 76 people, 28 of whom sought medical treatment at a hospital or doctors’ surgery.
The Defendant operated two bakeries in the Council’s area. The Salmonella outbreak was allegedly linked to the production of BBQ pork at the Angkor Bakery and Caffe, which supplied Angkor Bakery. The BBQ pork was used in the preparation of Vietnamese style rolls at both bakeries and cross contamination to other ingredients was detected at each store as a result of poor storage and display practices.
The Defendant was charged with a number of offences, including:
- selling unsafe food contrary to Section 16(2) of the Food Act 2001 (the Act); and
- failing to take all practicable measures to protect food on display from the likelihood of contamination contrary to Section 21(1) of the Act.
Norman Waterhouse represented the Council in these proceedings and submitted the Defendant, by failing to adequately engage in the required and appropriate food safety practices, secured an unfair and unlawful competitive advantage for the business over food proprietors who expend the necessary costs in applying the correct food safety practices.
Further, it was submitted that issues surrounding contamination of food are of a serious public health risk and consumers should not be paying money for unsafe food. The potential for serious injury and harm resulting from the behaviour of the Defendant was high, especially to vulnerable members of the public.
A clear lack of appropriate procedures and due diligence on the part of the Defendant caused the outbreak to occur. This case emphasised the paramount need for deterrence given the serious nature of the offences.
Magistrate Nitschke heard this matter at the Elizabeth Magistrates Court on 22 August 2020. His Honour convicted the Defendant on all counts, finding there was a potential for serious injury or harm resulting from the conduct and behaviour engaged in by the Defendant.
In determining the appropriate penalty, his Honour gave consideration to the Defendant’s early guilty pleas and lack of prior offending. The Defendant had also displayed remorse and the Council acknowledged he had complied willingly with its requests during the investigation, including voluntarily closing the bakeries. As such, discounts were applied, and the Defendant was ordered to pay penalties, costs and levies in the amount of $9,140.
Take Home Message
The legislature has made it very clear that consistent safe practices need to be adopted by food businesses when handling food, including potentially hazardous food, to protect public safety. Irrespective of the nature of proprietors, in this case the bakeries were a ‘mum and dad’ business, the Courts will consider the need for general deterrence and hand down an appropriate sentence to ensure the safety of the public continues to be protected.
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