Hotel prosecution highlights food poisoning risks

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Diversorium Ltd, the company which owns and operates the Downe Arms, a country inn hotel in Wykeham near Scarborough, has been fined £8,000 for two serious food hygiene related offences after an outbreak of Campylobacter food poisoning was traced back to contaminated chicken liver pate eaten at the hotel.

Following a prosecution by Scarborough Borough Council, Diversorium Ltd pleaded guilty at Scarborough Magistrates Court to two offences under the Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations after 21 people fell ill following a Christmas party night on 17 December 2016 and a Christmas break package at the hotel during the same month. The court ruled that fines of £5,000 and £3000 respectively should be paid for the offences. The company was also ordered to pay the council £2170 in costs.

The council’s Environmental Health team received complaints from those affected by the food poisoning and during the subsequent investigation it was apparent that there were a number of issues which were not consistent with good hygiene practices and food safety management records were incomplete. In particular, the process for preparing the chicken liver pate had not been validated by appropriate temperature monitoring and recording, and food safety was not being managed effectively. The extensive investigation, carried out in conjunction with Public Health England, concluded that the pate was the most probable cause of the illness. The business was subsequently marked down to a food hygiene rating of 1 (major improvement necessary).

The council is pleased to report that the management team at the Downe Arms has since taken steps to significantly improve the food hygiene standards at the hotel and after a re-inspection in August this year, the business was awarded a food hygiene rating of 4 (good).

Scarborough Borough Council Environment and Regulation Manager, Jonathan Bramley, said:

"This case shows that no matter how successful a business is, it is imperative that those responsible for the operation of a business keep on top of their food hygiene responsibilities at all times and ensure their staff do the same.

"Unfortunately on this occasion there were failings on the part of the operators to ensure the public were not put at risk and this culminated in several cases of food poisoning. This resulted in a number of people spending time in bed suffering from sickness and diarrhoea at a time when they should have been enjoying the Christmas festivities.

"In the interests of protecting the public, we will always take action against those that do not comply with food hygiene requirements."

The council is now using the case to highlight the hazards associated with producing high risk foods such as pate. Campylobacter can be contracted through the consumption of contaminated poultry and in the case of outbreaks it is especially associated with the consumption of chicken liver dishes. It is critical that such dishes are prepared safely and in accordance with an approved, properly validated method using an appropriate time and temperature combination to effectively kill the bacteria. Further advice on safe preparation can be sought from the council’s Environmental Health team and a validated recipe for the dish is available on the Food Standards Agency website at
food.gov.uk/business-industry/guidancenotes/hygguid/chicken-liver-pate-recipe