Stop scamming in Spain: Crackdown on British tourists’ phony food poisoning

The British Ministry of Justice has announced new rules to stop British holidaymakers in Spain from scamming tour operators with fake food poisoning claims.

Under the crackdown, a limit will be set on the legal costs that can be claimed in overseas package travel claims. This will stop claims management companies from seeking legal costs that are out of proportion to the damages sought – a loophole that has often pushed tour operators to settle out of court.

In a press release, the Ministry of Justice said the change “would mean tour operators would pay prescribed costs depending on the value of the claim and length of proceedings, making defense costs predictable and assisting tour operators to challenge bogus claims.”

According to court documents, phony food poisoning claims may have cheated Spanish hotels out of as much as €60 million since 2014. The scam took off in the summer of 2016, with one hotel chain receiving 273 claims requesting compensation for 700 people.

The scam was simple enough. The tourist buys a travel package with any travel agent and stays at a Spanish hotel that includes all meals in the price. Back in Britain after the vacation, the tourist uses a claims-management company to file a complaint against the company that organized the trip, alleging that the hotel meals made him/her ill.

Current British consumer laws barely require the claimant to produce any evidence. No doctor’s report is necessary, and claims may be filed up to three years after the event.

Since it is hard to prove that the client did not get sick, and faced with high legal fees if the case goes to court, the tour operator accepts the claim, then pass on the cost to the Spanish hotels as per their contract, in which the latter accept responsibility for all damages.

In 2017, the Spanish Civil Guard arrested seven British nationals for their involvement in the scam.

According to the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), the number of claims jumped from 5,000 in 2013 to 35,000 in 2016 – an increase of 500%.

“Claiming compensation for being sick on holiday, when you haven’t been, is fraud,” said Justice Minister Rory Stewart. “This behavior also tarnishes the reputation of British people abroad. That is why we are introducing measures to crack down on those who engage in this dishonest practice.”

The Ministry of Justice says the new rules will come into effect shortly – well before summer begins.

In early April, a young couple who demanded compensation after claiming they fell ill on holidays were caught out thanks to their social media photos.

Chelsea Devine, 21, and Jamie Melling, 22, from Liverpool in the UK, went on a 10-day all-inclusive holiday to Benidorm, Spain in September 2015.

The holiday was booked with travel and tourism company TUI, and they stayed at the Levante Beach Apartments during their trip.

In May 2016, the couple both claimed they had contracted serious food poisoning from food and drinks consumed during their stay, and each demanded $4500 in compensation from TUI.

The pair claimed they were seriously ill during their holiday, and that the sickness lasted for weeks.

However, Liverpool County Court heard their social media accounts revealed a variety of happy, poolside selfies, which caused judge Sally Hatfield QC to brand them both as “fundamentally dishonest”.

They recently received a record fine of more than $27,000 for their fraudulent claim.

According to The Sun, Recorder Sally Hatfield QC said there was no evidence the pair had been ill during their trip.

In October 2017, UK couple Deborah Briton, 53, and Paul Roberts, 43, were jailed for making fake holiday sickness claims in a landmark case.

UK woman who threw vomit over neighbour’s fence sent to prison

A woman who threw vomit over a neighbour’s garden fence and broke glass outside her front door has been sent to prison for 42 days by Truro magistrates.

Susan Karen Northey, aged 42, of Whym Kibbal Court, Wesley Street, Redruth, pursued a course of harassment towards another woman, which also included playing music loud enough to cause her partition wall to shake.

She admitted the offence and also to damaging a black Chevrolet Kalios to the value of £300.

Sainsbury’s recalls beetroot over glass fears

But, but mom, I don’t like beets.

A catch-phrase from my youth and I have no idea why, other than pickled beets were a staple of 1970s funky glassware along with pickled cucumbers and pickled onions.

Dinner at my parent’s house has its traditions.

I had some chicken pate and beets on crackers the other evening as an homage to my Danish carpenter friends, who would eat endless amounts of the stuff on rye bread.

I was chatting with a friend the other day, and we were remarking on the quality control from the ladies watching the beets in the past, to sophisticated glass and metal detectors in the present.

One of my better on-farm food safety tips for processing vegetables in Ontario about 2002 was, if you’re gonna shoot groundhogs, pick up the damn shell so it doesn’t end up in someone’s meal.

Sainsbury’s is recalling a batch of its Sliced Beetroot sold in jars as a “precautionary measure” because the product may contain small pieces of glass.

The presence of glass made the product unsafe to eat and presented a safety risk, according to the recall notice issued by the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

In its recall notice, the FSA advised consumers to return the product to the store from where it was bought for a full refund.

Sainsbury’s said it had identified the possible presence of small pieces of glass in one batch of its Sliced Beetroot product.

UK health officials finger C. perfringens as source of over 60 illnesses at pub

Those 60-plus diners that got sick at the Old Farmhouse pub on Mother’s Day in Somerset, UK, were stricken with Clostridium perfringens.

PHE South West Consultant in Health Protection Dr Bayad Nozad said: “C. perfringens live normally in the human and animal intestine and in the environment.

“The illness is usually caused by eating food contaminated with large numbers of C. perfringens bacteria that produce enough toxin in the intestines to cause illness.”

The Old Farmhouse, owned by brewery chain Hall and Woodhouse, temporarily closed its kitchen while investigations were underway.

Samples were then taken in order to identify the cause of the sickness outbreak.

Dr Nozad said: “It is good news that the majority of affected individuals appear to have recovered quickly.

“Our advice for anyone else affected is to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.

“We are currently working with Environmental Health Officers from North Somerset Council to ensure that the venue have appropriate precautions and procedures in place.”

North Somerset Council environmental health officers have say the venue is now operating under their guidance.

Salmonella sample swap: Welsh biologist used patient’s poo to get time off work

Philip Dewey and Jessica Walford of Wales Online report a scientist who didn’t want to work day shifts swapped his own feces with a patient who had salmonella to prove to his bosses he had food poisoning.

Bernard Watkins worked as a biomedical scientist in the microbiology department at Cwm Taf University Health Board.

After he was handed day shifts, instead of his preferred night shifts, he went into a freezer at work and took a patient sample which had tested positive for salmonella before using a computer at work to check a patient’s confidential details and make sure they had the disease.

But days later he confessed all to one of his bosses – admitting he had “spiked” his sample.

Mr Watkins was due to appear before a conduct and competence panel of the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) for allegations of dishonesty, misconduct and whether his fitness to practise has been impaired, but the hearing was held in his absence.

The panel heard on Thursday how on October 10, 2016, Mr Watkins, who had 20 years service at the time, told his bosses he was unable to come into work as he feeling unwell and suffering from diarrhoea and vomiting.

He left a fecal sample in the office on the same date.

Two days later, on October 12, he called his employers to say he wouldn’t be working for the rest of the week as he remained unwell.

The same day the fecal sample tested positive for salmonella.

One of his bosses, Kelly Ward, the manager for Microbiology, phoned Mr Watkins and asked him to submit another fecal sample signed by his GP.

On October 13 Mr Watkins explained to Mrs Ward he had been to his GP and provided the sample. But the sample tested negative for salmonella.

On October 17 Mr Watkins returned to work and Mrs Ward completed a return to work form. She discussed concerns with him going off work when he was required to work day shifts instead of his preferred night shifts.

But just two days later, as Mr Watkins was finishing a night shift which ended at 8am, he called Mrs Ward and asked to meet her when she got into work.

He told her he “deliberately contaminated” a sample of a patient who had salmonella with his own feces by adding in his own fecal matter, saying his employer would have “found out anyway”.

UK pub kitchen shut after 62 diners report vomiting and diarrhea: Somerset

A day after The Morning Advertiser in Somerset, U.K. said with a straight face that only a few local restaurants had received a zero rating from the U.K. Food Standards Authority, a local pub has closed after at least 62 diners reported vomiting and diarrhea.

The Old Farmhouse in Nailsea, north Somerset, which is operated by Hall & Woodhouse and did not, apparently, receive a zero, will keep its kitchen shut while investigations from North Somerset Council and Public Health England (PHE) continue.

 

Everyone’s got a camera: UK meat industry under review

The UK Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland have published details of a major review into the sites where meat products are processed and stored in the UK. 

Food Standards Scotland and Food Standards Agency announced:

  • Launch of comprehensive review of hygiene controls
    • Review includes unannounced inspections and audit regimes

Food Standards Agency announced:

  • Work with industry to implement CCTV across cutting plants
    • Increased intelligence gathering through audit data sharing pilots across industry
    • Improved insight into circumstances and factors leading to non-compliances and ability to anticipate them

Jason Feeney and Geoff Ogle, Chief Executives of the Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland respectively, jointly commented:

“We are concerned about recent instances of companies breaching hygiene rules. People rightly expect food businesses to keep to the rules, rules designed to keep consumers safe and to sustain public trust in food – and food businesses have a duty to follow the regulations. Our review will be far reaching and thorough and we will announce our initial findings in June.”

The review will aim to:

  • Increase public and stakeholder confidence in the meat industry and its regulation
    • Improve the ability to identify non-compliance and take prompt action to minimise the risk to public health and food safety
    • Assess how the industry currently operates across the whole supply chain.
    • Increase awareness of circumstances and factors which can lead to non-compliance

Assurance bodies, 2 Sisters Food Group and the FSA have also responded to recommendations made by the Parliamentary inquiry into poultry cutting plants. We have also published the outcome of FSA’s investigation into allegations of food hygiene and standards breaches at 2 Sisters.

In response to the inquiry the FSA will work with industry on a voluntary protocol for adoption of CCTV in meat processing plants and will consult on legislating to implement them if necessary.

FSA will also be running pilots to improve data and intelligence sharing across the industry and is pursuing increased investigatory powers for the National Food Crime Unit.

The investigation into 2 Sisters Food Group has been extensive and thorough and looked across their poultry sites.

500 hours of CCTV from the site were examined along with audit information from major retailers. The company voluntarily ceased production at one site whilst changes were made and staff re-trained. The FSA have had a permanent presence at their cutting plants for the last four months.

Jason Feeney, Chief Executive of the Food Standards Agency said:

“Our investigation found some areas for improvement but the issues were resolved promptly by the company, who co-operated fully, and at no point did we find it necessary to take formal enforcement action.”

“The business has made a wide range of improvements across all their sites to improve processes. They are already publishing the outcomes of all their audits and are in the process of installing high quality CCTV across their estate that we will have full access to. These are measures we would like the whole industry to adopt.”

Everyone has a camera, especially for selfies: UK couple who claimed holiday was ruined by food poisoning caught out by posting snaps on Facebook

Martin Naylor of the Mirror reports a brazen couple claimed they fell in with food poisoning while on holiday – only to put up pictures of themselves having fun and eating luxury meals on social media.

Leon Roberts and Jade Muzoka pleaded guilty to fraud and have been warned by a judge that they can face jail.

The couple falsely claimed their holiday in Turkey was ruined in a scam that could have cost travel firm TUI £50,000 had they not been caught out, the Derby Telegraph reports.

But despite the pair discontinuing their story before a penny was paid out, the company chose to prosecute.

District Judge Jonathan Taaffe said: “It would fly in the face of common sense to regard this as an isolated incident.

“It is a real problem in Great Britain and has a real impact on the genuine persons who suffer that make genuine claims and put those who do suffer illness on holiday under suspicion.

“This (the offences) is outside the (sentencing) guidelines because it encourages a tsunami of false claims.

“All (sentencing) options are open at this stage and this is a serious case and it may be that a custodial sentence will follow to show the importance of your wrongdoing.”

Southern Derbyshire Magistrates’ Court was told how Roberts, 37, of Alvaston, and Muzoka, 27, from Sinfin, spent a week at the luxury Cornelia Golf Resort and Spa, in Turkey, in July 2015.

The following April, the pair submitted claims through their solicitor saying they both fell ill during their time away.

But investigators discovered photographs of the couple, who are no longer together, lounging by the pool, drinking and eating dinner.

UK cops say suspect has refused to poop for 3 weeks

I poop about three times a day.

Probably not the image you wanted, but it affects my ability to go for a morning run, and dates back to working construction 40 years ago (corn silks can be versatile).

Essex Police in the UK are on #poowatch and tweeting about it. This after a suspected drug dealer believed to have drugs hidden in his body has now for 21 days refused to poop. The BBC reports the 24-year-old was arrested Jan. 17 and has been under supervision since then, with the department’s Operation Raptor team that arrested him providing updates like this one, tweeted Wednesday: “Day 21/3 weeks for our man on #poowatch still no movements/items to report, he will remain with us until Friday when we are back at court where we will be requesting a further 8 days should he not produce anything before that hearing.”

Last Friday they tweeted that the man is being watched by doctors and was in fine health at the time. Per the BBC, police decided to keep the public informed of the man’s bowel movements in an effort to quash any illusions that drug dealing is “glamorous.”

Fancy food ain’t safe food: UK-steak-house edition (Jamie Oliver is a food-safety idiot) and quinoa ain’t steak

Ruki Sayid of the Mirror writes the meat supplier behind Wetherspoon’s sudden move to axe steak for its Steak Club menu is at the centre of a food hygiene investigation.

The Food Standards Agency revealed Russell Hume’s sites have been inspected and products recalled after allegations it was in “serious non-compliance with food hygiene regulations.”

The firm has previously supplied meat for Jamie Oliver’s restaurants, but bosses today confirmed that they switched suppliers as soon as they became aware of problems.

Following a tip, the FSA carried out a spot check on the firm’s Birmingham site and then sent teams to other locations which also failed to meet regulations.

The FSA said: “There is no indication that people have become ill from eating meat supplied by Russell Hume.

“However, we are concerned about the poor practices in place at their premises so that is why we have taken proportionate action to ensure no meat can leave their sites at present.

“We are continuing to assess the situation.”

Customers were up in arms when Wetherspoon scrapped steak from its menu without warning at its 900 pubs.

The decision meant servings of the Aberdeen Angus rump steak, sirloin steak and gammon were unavailable to order as customers were reportedly offered quinoa and halloumi salad alternatives instead.

One furious diner told how he stormed out of a branch in Scarborough when he learned of the Steak Club shortcomings.

James Jarvis, 27, told The Sun : “One of their suggestions was a quinoa salad with grilled halloumi. I came in for a steak — not a poncey salad!”

While Michael Rousell, 62, who visited a Wetherspoon in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, told the newspaper: “I can’t believe a multi- million pound organisation like Wetherspoon can’t sort this out ­— it beggars belief.”

A notice apparently pictured at one pub read: “Due to a supplier failure, the following meals are unavailable: 8oz and 14oz Aberdeen Angus rump steak, 8oz sirloin steak, 5oz and 10z gammon.”