The owner of a popular Canberra cafe has had charges against him dropped, relating to a salmonella outbreak that saw more than 100 people fall ill in 2017, and has also escaped conviction on an unrelated charge.
The owner of Ricardo’s, Rick DeMarco, 32, was cleared of the most serious charges spanning from an investigation in February 2017, which began after customers complained of food poisoning on social media.
The restaurant in Jamison was immediately closed after the reports and, in a statement at the time, Mr DeMarco admitted salmonella was found on a used dishcloth and tea towel, but nothing was found in any food or on any cafe equipment.
Hello? Cross-contamination? Epidemiology?
The ACT chief magistrate Lorraine Walker did not record a conviction against De Marco, after he pleaded guilty to one count of failing to comply with the food standards code.
However, the chief magistrate said there was no correlation between Mr De Marco’s plea of guilty to the individual charge and the salmonella outbreak.
The single charge against Mr De Marco related to breaches discovered by health inspectors. These were uncovered containers of food in a refrigerator and a single-use container being reused.
However, while the food was kept inappropriately, Mr De Marco’s defence barrister Jack Pappas noted the food was kept at the required temperature in the refrigerator.
He added that Mr De Marco’s two businesses, Ricardo’s Cafe and Space Kitchen in Woden, were significant contributors to the local economy by employing about 50 people and training apprentices.
Ms Walker said that the instances were not at the lowest end of offending, “they were pretty close”.
Ms Walker said it was an instance where, due to the nature of the breach and Mr De Marco’s good character, it was appropriate to not record a conviction.
There were 75 cases of salmonella confirmed by ACT Health during the outbreak in February 2017, with some people requiring hospitalisation.