New Zealand Food Safety Authority nails restaurant — no one wins when people barf

A New Zealand restaurateur whose poor food safety practices caused more than 50 Christmas Day diners to fall ill has had his appeal thrown out.

Robin Pierson, the owner-operator of Bushmere Arms, was ordered to pay $400 in fines, along with $850 in reparation to victims and $10,414 in costs to the Crown in a case brought by the New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA).

The court heard that on 25 December 2006, Pierson’s restaurant provided a Christmas Day buffet luncheon for about 110 diners, with a selection of ham, beef and turkey. The next day some of the diners called him complaining of illness after the luncheon. Fifty-seven reported varying degrees of stomach pain, abdominal cramps and diarrhoea.

A Health Protection Officer found the symptoms of illness described by the complainant diners were consistent with food poisoning caused by Clostridium perfringens. C. perfringens was also found in samples of the leftover turkey, and the enterotoxin form of the bacteria in faecal samples from two of the ill diners.
While C. perfringens can be found in the stools of normal people, the enterotoxin is only found in people with C. perfringens food poisoning.

NZFSA’s Assistant Director of Compliance and Investigation Justin Rowlands, said the luncheon had all the hallmarks of an outbreak in waiting.

“The turkey was inadequately thawed, cooked, and reheated. The person serving meats at the buffet also used the same knife to carve the turkey, meat and ham, raising the chance of cross contamination. Also, the restaurant did not have formal steps in place for operating safely during stressful periods.”