What Does the Raymond Blanc Case tell us about Food Poisoning Claims?

Raymond Blanc’s restaurant in Covent Garden has apparently been banned from serving a liver dish which  was underdone. This allowed campylobacter, to develop which is a spiral-shaped bacterium that is a common cause of food poisoning in humans.

The food poisoning was reported to the Local Council whose Health and Safety managers investigated and subsequently issued a notice which prohibited the sale of under-cooked liver.

The issue was the length of time that the liver was cooked-the longer it is heated the more chance there is that the bacteria will be destroyed.

But for a Cook such as Raymond Blanc the idea of serving liver that was in this condition was not acceptable because the more the liver was cooked the less flavour it had in his view. So he has simply taken it off the menu and accepted the fine that was imposed by Westminster Magistrates Court.

As a Lawyer who specialises in bringing claims for food poisoning (and also claims for poisoning due to gluten intolerance) this case is of interest for a number of reasons.

Firstly, this seems to have been a relatively well evidenced bacterial outbreak. The Council were informed quickly and they investigated quickly. The real problem with many food poisoning claims is to get the evidence quickly enough to give sufficient proof. Often by the time a victim is well enough to consider bringing a claim for food poisoning or consulting a Solicitor the evidence is not clear cut. To bring a successful claim it is important that the accident is reported as soon as possible afterwards. Also when you attend at GP or hospital the cause of the problem must be clearly stated so that these records can be used later as necessary.

Secondly it is ironic that in this case, where it is likely that the standard of cleanliness in the restaurant kitchen was high, that the Council took action. In most claims for food poisoning the problem is the poor hygiene and food preparation. This is particularly the case with raw meat and chicken. It is this basic problem that occurs time and time again in food poisoning claims that is, unusually, not being highlighted here.

Finally, we are not told in this case whether the victims of the under-cooked meat brought any claim against the restaurant. It would be interesting to know whether they did and if they settled out of court. Despite the difficulties in proving claims for food poisoning the fact is that most restaurants want to maintain their reputation. This means they will be keen to reach an amicable settlement in any situation where that reputation might be threatened.

It is always advisable to seek legal advice if it you believe that you have suffered from food poisoning. The fact is that these are difficult claims to prove, and they require a specialist to get over the various evidential and other problems as efficiently as possible.