Name & shame

July 2008

Let's start July with a serious item. Do you think that restaurants warned by health authorities should be named and shamed? Yes. OK. Consider these points.

First, the American newspaper Newsday (June 27th) reports that a New York City health inspector has been arrested after telling a restaurant in Brooklyn it could avoid being closed for violations for the price of a bottle of tequila and $500. The inspector was fired and could go to  jail. Could it happen here?

Second, consider the case of a restaurant that operates without any problems for a number of years, then fails one minor health inspection. Should they be named and shamed? That's the end of their business.

Third, some time ago I was dining at the restaurant of a well-known chef with five other people. We all ate the same dish. I was the only one who became severely ill. I was reminded of that by the case of Tables in Pymble, where the 81-year-old man died after eating the sauce on the asparagus. A tragedy. But 14 other diners who ate the sauce did not die.

Public health is a difficult area and, yes, we all want to believe we are eating uncontaminated food. But there are no guarantees anywhere in life, especially not in restaurants. And, might I add, neither you nor I would want a health inspector in our home fridges.

Personally, I think the first time a restaurant commits an offence it should be given a warning and a specified time to clean up its act. If it doesn't, or if it offends again, all bets are off.

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