Food poisoning reviews put public and businesses at risk

Thousands of online allegations of food poisoning are increasing the risks of serious illness to the public and unjust damage to good businesses.

Food-borne illness is complex and can even be fatal. Wherever possible, proper procedures should be followed to prevent others being put at risk.

Requests for assistance from restaurants and other food outlets that have been accused of causing illness on reviews sites and blogs have been increasing and subsequent research reveals the huge scale of the problems, which include unsafe assumptions of the source of illness and the possibility of false allegations being used to damage businesses.

KwikChex is launching actions to help stop this scenario.

Included in the actions are:

  • Assistance to businesses suffering unsubstantiated accusations online, including defamation actions where appropriate and necessary.
  • Campaigning to stop such allegations being published without proof.
  • Assisting consumers to get proper advice about reporting suspected food poisoning and treatment.
  • Enabling consumers to check the official food safety ratings of catering businesses.
  • Working with acknowledged experts and the appropriate authorities to detect genuine cases and ensure appropriate action is taken.
  • The actions are commencing in the UK and resources from the Food Standards Agency will be provided on the KwikChex website. We will work closely in the UK with Dr Lisa Ackerley, one of the world's leading food safety experts and managing director of Hygiene Audit Systems. The actions will roll out internationally.

    Links re Dr Lisa Ackerley

    Wikipedia entry

    Statement from Dr.Lisa Ackerley

    “Consumers have the right to complain if their experiences in restaurants or on holiday were unacceptable. However if people believe they have suffered from food poisoning, it is crucial that issues are investigated properly rather than allegations made publicly without justifiable evidence.

    Every day at Hygiene Audit Systems we handle incidents and complaints including claims of food poisoning, physical injury from food and allergic reactions. Our experience shows that whilst many claims are unsubstantiated, some do have merit. Either way, our independent investigation may determine ways for improvement to ensure an issue does not recur, so the process is very useful for both the consumer and the food business.

    Where claims of food poisoning, occur, people often forget that it is not the last thing that they ate which caused illness but it could have been something they ate some days ago. To really understand how food poisoning occurred, the first step is to know what organism caused the illness, because every pathogen has its own incubation period (time from infection to illness) and typical symptoms. This helps to build up an idea of when the illness was contracted, and what food it was. Even if you are convinced that a food caused your illness, without this evidence, you cannot be sure (and neither can your GP).

    Another thing to remember is that illnesses such as cryptosporidiosis may be caused by using a contaminated swimming pool rather than from eating infected food.

    Businesses need to know if a customer is unhappy, and mistakes can happen. It would probably be more effective for the complaint to be addressed to the business first rather than on a public review site to give the business a chance to put it right!”

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