A Wollongong restaurant that served up a deadly plate of hummus has been fined over $100,000 after the NSW Supreme Court court found its food safety management lacking.
Nathan Anderson visited Samaras Lebanese and Mediterranean Restaurant after a day of golf with friends on October 27, 2017, joking about his allergies.
After hearing his friends’ “banter”, restaurant front-of-house manager Alyca Nemer promised Anderson could be served food without the allergens he listed, which included peanuts, shellfish, eggs and sesame seeds.
The restaurant had an informal allergen procedure in place at the time, which required management staff to check a handwritten basic allergen sheet before sending orders to the kitchen.
Nemer, the restaurant owner’s daughter, took it upon herself to formulate an entree plate for Anderson, and did not discuss his allergies with kitchen staff or any other staff member.
While she had carefully excluded sesame seeds from the food, including avoiding cross-contamination, Nemer admits she had forgotten hummus contained sesame seed paste or tahini.
After taking a bite or two of bread dipped in the hummus, Anderson said he felt discomfort and left the restaurant to get his epi-pen from his accommodation.
Anderson made it only 150 metres before he collapsed on a footpath.
Paramedics were called, but were unable to save him.
Restaurant’s failures outlined
Anderson’s friends did not call an ambulance when he first expressed discomfort and did not tell the restaurant he had suffered a reaction.
He also did not remain still and calm as advised when attacks occur.
“Sadly (the deceased’s) own actions (standing up, walking fast in an attempt to secure an epi-pen that he didn’t carry), aggravated the reactions’ severity,” an allergy expert told the court.
The restaurant was fully booked and busy, and Nemer was pregnant and had been sick in the lead-up to the incident.
However, Justice Clifton Hoeben found none of those factors mitigated her liability.
Justice Hoeben found the restaurant’s lack of appropriate systems in effect left wait staff “to their own devices” when dealing with allergen and food safety management.
Its failures amount to a significant departure from the standard of care required from restaurants, he said.
However, Justice Hoeben noted the informal system appeared to have been reasonably effective until the incident, and Nemer’s “moving” apology.
“I will never be apologetic enough for the stupid mistake I made that night,” she told the court in December 2017.
“Finding out about the passing of Anderson would have to have been one of the worst and definitely the hardest moments of my life.”
Samaras Lebanese and Mediterranean Restaurant was fined $105,000 and ordered to pay the prosecutor’s costs.
Better training in relation to the revised allergy procedures for all restaurant staff is also required.