Food Poisoning Claims – What to do.

The rise of food poisoning claims and processes you can implement to help reduce the impact of these within your restaurant.

Stephen McKenna, Claims Manager from our Partner Campion Insurance, outlines his experience with food poisoning insurance claims.

Food poisoning claims are becoming increasingly common; however, in most cases these can be successfully defended.  Ability to defend this particular type of claim stems from the difficulty of proof. The nature of food poisoning makes it very hard to determine the root cause of the poisoning.  It is complicated for the claimant to prove that an illness was caused by food purchased at the restaurant and not from another source.

How can it be proven that the source was your restaurant?

For a claim to be successful, the illness must be diagnosed by a doctor and must be linked to food consumed in your restaurant.  In most cases where someone is attempting to pursue a claim for food poisoning, they will seek medical treatment after they have recovered.  Typically, the medical doctors report will state; “the symptoms described are likely to have been as a result of food consumed at the premises.” This is an opinion or an observation rather than absolute proof.

To prove a food poisoning claim, the claimant is required to go to a doctor and complete testing.  The next step is for the claimant or representative to report the claim to the Health Safety Executive.  The HSE is then required to carry out tests at the premises and only if after the analysis; it is proven that there is contaminated food or traces of the contaminant at the premises is it likely that the claim will be successful.

Risk Prevention

There are several risk prevention measures you can implement to increasingly protect yourself against such claims.  Restaurateurs need to ensure all health and safety requirements are adhered to fully.  Independent inspections of the premises should be completed regularly so the results can be made available in the event of an incident.

The more complete the safety procedures, the better.  Full details can be obtained from the Food Safety Authority of Ireland’s website:

https://www.fsai.ie/

 

What should be done if an incident occurs?

If an incident is reported to your restaurant, you should follow the process below:

  1. Find out exactly what the claimant is alleging to have caused the symptoms ie. What food did they consume?
  2. Check records for that evening to see if there were any other complaints.
  3. Confirm the following:
    1. Who were your suppliers for the ingredients in the dishes the claimant was eating?
    2. How many customers ate the particular dish or dishes containing similar ingredients on the day in question? (It becomes hard for the claimant to make a successful case if the offending dish was a popular choice and no one else became ill.)
  4. Make your enquiries – do any of your staff know the claimant? Do they eat in your restaurant regularly? Local knowledge in this type of claim can be very helpful. Is this customer a trusted regular or someone with a reputation for making claims?
  5. Social Media can be a powerful tool. A quick look on Facebook can show if the claimant has been posting images that contradict their version of the events.  For example, if they say they were home sick due to food poisoning following the meal; however, tag themselves or post images out and about that evening – this would suggest their claim is exaggerated at the very least.

It is important that if you are made aware of any potential food poisoning claim that you log it in your incident book and inform your insurance broker.

Food poisoning claims, like most insurance claims are on the increase.  Any settlement provided for this type of claim is generally relatively low therefore claimant solicitors are less likely to have significant involvement. By following the advice offered by the Food Safety Authority combined with the above action plan if an incident is reported, you are putting yourself in the best possible position to defend any claim.

 

For more advice with regards to claims or your insurance policy, please call Campion Insurance on 1890 300 310 or email rai@campionins.com and a member of our team will be in touch.

 

Campion Insurances Ltd trading as Campion Insurance, Bestquote.ie, ISME Insurance Services is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.