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  • Clean Up your Act or It's Naming and Shaming Time

    Posted by Lana Fleetwood July 7, 2016 - 406 views - 0 comments - 1 like - #sydney  #restaurants  #hygiene  #food poisoning  #Chatswood 

    I had doubts for days whether to post this story, which I had written a few months after the event as a way of pouring out my shaken emotions and in attempt to clear my mind and soul of any build-up of negative feelings. Basically, I did not want to keep it all in, because I knew that I would be just hurting myself by harbouring toxic anger and dispiriting helplessness. I made a compromise and omitted the name of the business entity involved, in the last minute, so it did not show explicitly in the text. I hoped that the meaning of my story went beyond outright blaming and shaming.


    The Story

    It was a beautiful autumn evening in March, when my hubby, our son and I, headed out for a meal to a Chinese Restaurant in Chatswood, Sydney. We had a small occasion to celebrate, so we did not want to go anywhere too fancy. As long as it was not too far from us and it was a Chinese, then it wwas going to do it for us, we thought. We were not keen on overly spicy food, so we all had something simple. Our son picked a dish that contained chicken and we opted for a veggeterian meal. It was not bad, but my impressions were that the food was not great, either. The staff, however, were friendly and polite, so on the whole, my family had a pleasant evening.


    We left the restaurant in a good mood, went for a brief stroll and then headed to the car park and drove back home. Within the next twenty minutes, my son complained that he was feeling unwell. I thought, he might be coming down with something, a virus, or he was probably just a bit tired. We suggested he had an early night and get a good rest, despite that he was not at school on the following day. To cut a long story short, within an hour of him going to his room, he was violently sick several times. Our poor boy was shaking uncontrollably and was covered in cold sweat. We knew that there was something severely wrong with him and that it did not feel or look like a virus or common cold. We rushed him to the nearest hospital - the Balmain GP Casualty Department and as anyone could imagine, we felt simply stunned with worry.


    The Verdict

    Our boy suffered from a nearly catastrophic food poisoning. He was transferred to another hospital, due to serious dehydration, and was put on watch for a couple of days, as there was a concern about possible kidney complication. Needless to say, this was the worst day of our lives. Luckily, our son fully recovered from this scary experience and I can, now, confidently say that he has long forgotten about the misfortunate event.

    The Repercussions

    Unfortunately, I could not say the same about myself. I felt angry for weeks, contemplating on the ifs and whats. For nights on end, I led pointless dialogues, in my head, with the imaginary owners of the Chinese restaurant - the culprit of our troubles. My husband admitted that he had put the nightmare all behind and and advised me to do the same. Well, I simply couldn’t. I went on reading all sorts of legislation documentation, related to public health and food safety. I searched for some reviews about the restaurant, aware that this should have been done before not after I chose to go there for a meal. I even wrote a letter to the manager of the place, which I never sent, asking him about how difficult it would be for them to clean up their act and suggesting that they could hire local professionals to do the cleaning if need be.

    The Investigation

    I did not stop there with my research. Eventually I discovered that at the beginning of 2016, the restaurant was issued with three, not one, penalty notices by the Australian Food Authority and fined to pay just under $3 000. The establishment had gravely failed on three food safety accounts:

    • Potentially hazardous food had not been stored correctly under temperature control
    • The food premises and all cooking equipment, fixtures and fittings had been maintained to a substandard level of cleanliness
    • Presence of pests had been discovered, hence, no adequate measures had been taken to control and eliminate pests


    Sadly, the Penalty Register lists hundreds of food establishments across Sydney and NSW, which have been caught committing an act of serious negligence, with respect to hygiene and health safety. A couple of Asian eateries in Chatswood have also been infamously exposed, despite one of them being advertised as part of “Australia’s most awarded Chinese Restaurant Group”.


    The Conclusion

    Although the authorities, responsible for the control of public safety, make every effort to present data and records in the most accessible manner, the truth is that no one reads them until it is too late. In January, there was a case of forty people, suffering from food poisoning after a visit to a bakery in Sydney.

    We all lead busy lives and often rush to grab lunch or a snack in a place, which may be unfamiliar to us, purely because it is convenient at the time. We do not always notice what happens behind closed doors in the back kitchens. My advice is, when you visit a new takeaway or a fast food restaurant, to pay attention to the way staff handles food and always watch for suspicious signs that point at the establishment displaying poor standards of hygiene.

    And a Final Note

    If my story prevents just one of you, a local or a visitor to our beautiful Sydney, from enduring what I went through, then it was worth sharing!