Restaurant chain fined over instant food poisoning

A local food provider lost suit again after it was unsatisfied with an over 1-million-yuan fine given in a case that cakes with its sauce poisoned 68 diners.

Fined more than 1 million yuan (US$150,000) by a district market watchdog, it was no surprise that LIST, a chic dim sum franchise with nine restaurants and a central kitchen, went to appeal in its food poisoning case, and perhaps even less surprising that the No.1 Intermediate People’s Court rejected the appeal.

On July 19, 2017, 68 people fell sick after eating desserts made with cream cheese, apparently poisoned by salmonella in sauce bags provided by the central kitchen. The desserts were made by Yufeng Food group whose owner Yin Liang is also the founder of LIST. According to Baoshan market supervision and management authority, the company has no license for making instant food, as sauce bags are categorized.

The district market watchdogs confiscated the company’s profits and fined it more than 1.1 million yuan.

During the investigation, it was found that staff at the food provider did not wear masks or gloves and the buckets used for mixing the sauce were not sterilized. Eggs used were unwashed.

The company sent the sauce to nine branches between July 15 and 19, and many customers fell ill. Investigation ruled out the possibility of other ingredients having caused the food poisoning.

The court of the first instance ruled that the sauce is an instant food, beyond the scope of the company’s business license, and that the salmonella had caused the food poisoning, so it upheld the watchdog's decision. However, the company argued that the sauce that each branch used was reprocessed so that it was not truly “instant” as the court had concluded.

The intermediate court said that the sauce could be used without reprocessing which meets the criteria for an instant food. Furthermore, the court argued that the so-called reprocessing by each branch was neither sterilizing nor heating up the sauce.

Based on such judgment and the widespread poisoning with serious results that the company had caused, the court rejected the appeal.

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