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Magistrates crack down on unsafe practices

A magistrates court in Melbourne this month fined a catering company $55,000 for serving a frozen dessert that a waiter “guaranteed” was dairy-free.

The boy that was served suffered near-fatal allergic reaction to ice-cream and has led to one of the largest fines for a food offence involving allergies in Australia.

Meanwhile in Bathurst, a woman who stepped into a partially-covered drain in a hotel car park, fracturing two toes, has been awarded nearly half a million dollars by the courts.

In the Melbourne case, a magistrate convicted The Manor on High in Epping of breaching Victoria’s Food Act by falsely describing food, with the knowledge the consumer could suffer physical harm.

The case has intensified calls by allergy sufferers for the restaurant industry to take their condition more seriously. Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia president Maria Said wants the introduction of a nationwide allergy management plan and compulsory allergy training for restaurant staff.

But the industry’s peak body, Restaurant and Catering Australia, said an agreement agreed to last year between the catering group and the allergy group, through Food Standards Australia New Zealand, was enough to reduce risk. It required restaurants to know ingredients and handle customers’ allergy queries, said chief executive John Hart.

Manor on High owner Gezim Oxha said within a month of the incident, employees were retrained, the manual updated and new protocols enforced.

The woman in Bathurst also sprained her right ankle after falling less than 15cm into an open grate on the driveway of the Knickerbocker Hotel. The hotel had not marked the missing slats in the grate as a potential hazard. District Court judge Leonard Levy awarded the woman $456,000.

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