Restaurant Insurance for food poisoning

Restaurant Insurance for food poisoning

Food poisoning in restaurants: Here’s how insurance can help 

As a restaurant owner, you will no doubt take hygiene and high standards of food preparation extremely seriously and the last thing you want or expect to hear is a food poisoning complaint. Unfortunately, no matter how careful you are, these things can happen, and it helps to be prepared in advance to ensure you don’t get caught out.

As well as potentially damaging the reputation of your establishment, the affected customer may choose to hold your business liable in a bid for compensation. In this case, the associated legal fees can quickly add up, including court costs, investigation and defence and any money you are consequently required to pay to the claimant. This could include the time they’ve had to take off work while recovering from the sickness as well as the detrimental effect to their lifestyle over this period.

What should I do if I get a food poisoning complaint?

Even if you’re sceptical that the food poisoning occurred as a result of your business, you need to demonstrate to the complainant that you’re taking their allegation seriously. If you dismiss their concerns outright, they may be more inclined to take matters further. While you should avoid admitting liability at this stage, refrain from trying to shift the blame onto other factors such as excessive alcohol and rich food; instead, simply reassure them you will conduct a full internal investigation.  

At this stage, you will then need to start building a picture of the customer’s experience at your restaurant. It’s important to find out:

  • What they ate
  • When they dined
  • Who they dined with and whether they’ve experienced any symptoms
  • When their symptoms started
  • The type of symptoms they have experienced
  • How long they’ve had symptoms for
  • Whether they’ve been to the doctor
  • Whether they’ve reported their symptoms to the Environmental Health Organisation (EHO).

Once you have this information, you will then be able to conduct your investigation. It’s a good idea to stop serving the components of the meal that the customer was potentially affected by until your investigation is complete but remember to reserve samples for testing.

You will then need to determine the origins of these, including:

  • The supplier
  • How and where it was delivered
  • Where it was stored
  • The processes it went through
  • How it was cooked
  • The members of staff on duty at the time
  • Who prepared the food.

Consider whether any members of staff have been ill recently, could they have passed anything on?

Dependent on your findings, you will then need to take the necessary steps to rectify any potential wrongdoings you found while fully cooperating with the EHO.

What if someone makes a liability claim against my restaurant?

While it can be very difficult for a customer to prove that they suffered food poisoning as a direct result of your restaurant without keeping samples of their meal, an allegation can be costly and could have a direct impact on the reputation of your business. The impact of food poisoning on a person can vary in severity, ranging from minor sickness to triggering long-term complications such as IBS, kidney failure and chronic arthritis.

At Full Time Cover, we can work with you to ensure that you’re covered for allegations related to food poisoning as part of your restaurant insurance package. This policy feature will help you to cover the costs of investigating and defending claims as well as compensation costs. To find out more about this, along with the other ways we can help to strengthen your policy, just get in touch using our contact form.