Food poisioning at 5 Star European hotelBack to Forum
Anonymous26 May 2013
Unfortunately I have had an experience at a major hotel group where I am a Diamond [highest level] member for the last 3 years .The property was in the EU.
I and my wife stayed 6 nights at a premier level hotel in this global hotel group.
She became violently ill on the 4th night of our stay, within 3-4 hours of eating a room service order which included a sea food dish. Both she and I ate exclusively at the hotel for the previous 36 hours [dinner the evening before, b’fast, lunch and the room service order] although I did not have the clams which I believe were the cause of her illness.
I reported the incident to the hotel management the following morning for fear that other might be affected and also to log the issue.
She was confined to her room for the remainder of the 3 days but I did not make a huge issue of it until checking out.
The hotel did take details of all we had consumed and indicated that they would investigate. The person investigating [the Food and beverage manager] had all the receipts for our food consumption since our arrival in the hotel when I met him.
I had a very protracted conversation with the duty manager at check out who suggested that they would await the result of their own investigation. I indicated that this was not good enough and suggested that some ex gratia arrangement would be preferable to me since I did not have any confidence in the “Police investigation the Police”.
2 days after arriving home I received an email from the hotel offering a future 3 day stay there at their expense ‘to allow us to recover the 3 days lost”. I replied that this would be acceptable and would likely return later in the year.
4 weeks later I received a registered letter from the hotel indicating that their investigation found no contamination in the room service food served to us on our 4th night.
I realise that this is a very difficult issue to deal with. Hotels and restaurants offer food and beverage and 99% of the time, all is okay.
It is the 1% of the time when it goes wrong, I am wondering just how fairly the customer is treated/represented?26 May 2013
Happened to me once in Brazil at a major international hotel group. The course of the events was essentially the same as you outline.
There was clearly little point pursuing it as the outcome of any “investigation” was inevitable. Hotels don’t voluntarily admit there was a problem.
I put it down to experience and moved on.27 May 2013
The only way to get a fair evaluation in a situation like this is to involve the environmental health, or equivalent, people.
Not pleasant, as it will involve stool samples and the like, but it is probable they will identify the likely cause.
With no burden of proof, it sounds like your offer from the hotel was pretty generous.27 May 2013
As esselle states, you need proof from your side. If you called a Dr or an insurance company, they could have assisted, but if you were only relying on the hotels own investigative protocol, I think the likely outcome would be known from the start.
I hope Mrs SEP is now fully recovered.
What will be interesting to know is how you are treated when you return and whether you order the same seafood dish.27 May 2013
The quality/prestige of the hotel is no guarantor of food quality. Even the worlds’ top chefs can suffer – shortly after an environmental health check too!
As you say there is always a remote chance. The offer appears reasonable, especially if you cannot find any other report of a similar problem around your incident.27 May 2013
Not just in the EU, my hotel of choice when staying in London tried to serve me up raw chicken……
When I pointed out that it was raw, the look of astonishment from the waiter..i.e How dare I point out the obvious…..was absolutely priceless…….
After a conversation with the hotel manager, the meal was replaced and our table dined for free!!
It was also the same hotel that managed to serve up morning tea with cold water in the pot. When I requested hot water I was total the tea urn was broken and they only had cold water!!27 May 2013
Morning Swissexpat – I do hope Mrs SEP is fully recovered, it is a nasty, nasty experience. I had a similar thing happen to me in the Gambia, it is totally exhausting and leaves you so weak. Not something I would want to repeat ever. The Head Chef there tried to tell me that I had had too much sun! As a fair northerner, my sorties in the sun are limited. A hat is my best friend! I tried to work out what had caused it by eliminating what I had eaten and what the DH had eaten, as he was absolutely fine. The only thing I had had that he had not eaten was some rice with my main course. Now rice is notorious for bacteria, especially re-heated. But I hasten to add, just because he had not eaten the rice, it did not mean that it was the rice!
Anyway, as a former Hotel GM, I have had to deal with this type of incident occurring from time to time. The only way to know definitely 100% where any food poisoning originates is for the affected person to provide stool samples and to involve the EHO and/or medical practitioners for analysis. There is no other way.
In my day, and it may have changed now, the chef would keep samples of food served. Not every single dish of course, but for example, in the case of a large function, one portion of everything would be kept and frozen. In the restaurant, selected dishes would be treated in the same way.
Unfortunately due to the type of poison, of which there are several emanating from seafood and shellfish, the Chef would not be aware that there is anything wrong with the food he is sending out. This is quite different of course from any food being “off” for which there is absolutely no excuse for serving.
It is always difficult for an hotel in these circumstances as I am sure, well I know, that sometimes guests can try it on. For example drinking all night in the hotel bar, having a late night room service pizza, being ill the next morning and immediately shouting “food poisoning, bad pizza” – more often than not too much drink! This was quite clearly NOT the case with Mrs SEP! 😉
I think the hotel would have checked as they would not have wished any further outbreaks but in the absence of any physical evidence from Mrs SEP, it would be terribly difficult to trace the actual source of the poisoning, if not impossible. Did you call in medical help? If nothing else Mrs SEP would have been terribly dehydrated. I feel for her, it’s awful.
I think their offer is appropriate in the circumstances and I think taking everything into account fair.27 May 2013
Shellfish especially,and fish are the most common cause of gastric
problems , wherever they are taken, travelling, home hotel or not.
They can cause the most violent and quick reactions.
Agree with all the comments above.
I would always think it advisable to seek medical assistance if symptoms continue after 24 hrs.
Re-hydration salts / sachets are easy and cheap always to take, as would a multivitamin dispersible tablet. I manage medical services and i always take some basics with me including this.
It would be frightening to be alone in a place or country where help is not so easy to obtain, you are isolated georaphically, or language problems.
I think any travel these days, some basic First Aid items, that YOU know you can take safely, tried and tested before, would be very wise. These would include simple things like rehydration salts or vitamins, pain relief /anti inflammatory/ anti-sickness/ antistermine…
Regard these as First Aid, not just the kit plasters and creams.
Never gorget your EHIC care within the EU, it will support in situations such as this.
Sorry to hear, and I hope all is well now.
It sounds as though the hotel were up-front, open, and have clearly sympathised, and you have been fairly treated.27 May 2013
Just to get you back in this day and age: the UK, of which London is the capital city, is part of the EU since 1973.
Unless you are staying in London, Ontario, Canada.
Getting raw chicken and cold tea water served in a reputable should be harsly punishable though.27 May 2013
Never been to London, Ontario so I must have been having a UKIP moment : ))
The chicken incident was regrettable, the tea hilarious….
The restaurant staff were not from Britain, so clearly didn’t understand the importance of a proper cuppa….the chimps would have been horrified…
When I suggested using a kettle, as each room had one, they looked at me as if I was barking mad !27 May 2013
I also hope mrs. SEP is now fully recovered. I’d grab the 3 days and enjoy it. Thing is, it was not necessarily the food, a gastric virus can also be spread by humans, especially in a confined space such as a hotel. The norovirus is a good example of this. So unless you went for a full medical check as mentioned by Esselle et al, you’ll have to give the hotel the benefit of the doubt!27 May 2013
Thanks for your good wishes, Thankfully Mrs SEP is fine but it did take 2-3 weeks for her to get back to full fitness.
I guess this episode highlights simply how vulnerable we are when out and about either on business or in this case relaxing and also how in all but the most serious incidents, how the odds are stacked against you when you do become a victim.
In this case, the hotel in question asked me for all the locations I had eaten in the last 4-5 days. It felt to me throughout the process, they were doing everything to point the blame at some other food provider.
That we had eaten exclusively at this property in the previous 36 hours essentially pointed to the hotel being responsible, at least with a high degree of probability.
Also during the remaining 3 days, most of the hotel staff enquired as to her welfare so the incident was widely know about. Also, me dining alone in the B’fast and lunch room for 3 days in a row and housekeeping having to work around a “patient’ confined to bed indicated the severity of the situation.
We will take up the offer of the 3 days back there. Definitely being a Diamond member escalated the incident and brought out a better solution.
However, I admit to being a bit offended/surprised in receiving a REGISTERED letter at my home address, essentially indicating that following their own lab test, they believed their food was not contaminated. I expect that this was to indicate that they would defend and liability claim I might make [not that I was going to since some compensation had already been offered and accepted]
The Hotel would have been quite happy for me to leave after the 6 days stay, and then to simply write to me indicating the “results” of their “investigation”, i.e nothing wrong with their food. It was only that I sought out the Hotel Manager during check out and told them that I was singularly unimpressed and would “take the matter further”. [meaning a strongly worded letter to Hilton Diamond dept]. I also indicated that they had access to my Hilton profile and could easily verify that I was not in the habit of seeking compensation from their hotels.
They only offered and comp 2 days later via email. Without my forceful protestations, I’d have been pawned off with nothing.29 May 2013
I, and a few dozen others attending the same industry lunch, were poisoned by the Savoy in the 1990s. Salmonella.
I have never been so ill in my life. I was delirious for 24 hours. When I discovered what had happened (got my office to cancel an appointment, and when I’d recovered enough to call and apologise for breaking the appointment, was told: “Oh you were at the Savoy lunch, weren’t you? They’ve declared an official outbreak. Go and see your doctor.”)
And they had. Westminster City Council was handling it. I had to see the quack, do ‘stool tests’ (what fun), and follow-up tests.
One or two people nearly pegged out, apparently. A year or so later the Savoy’s insurers coughed compensation. I, being a lowly Less Tired Old Hack back then, got £780. No way would I EVER go through that ordeal again for that sort of cash. Others got much more.
I remember being absolutely infuriated. Some incompetent had put me at measurable risk of death. It provided fuel for a stinging editorial, anyway (then, as now, I was editing a food industry journal). Oh, and I sold the story to the Evening Standard and copped a nice freelance fee.30 May 2013
A couple of summers ago, I met some friends for lunch at a 5-star hotel. It was the same chain as the one that appears to have caused the SwissExPat’s problems. It was in London and it is located VERY close to Trafalgar Square.
We went to the roof terrace (overlooking Trafalgar Square) and had Asian platters to share. The chicken satay tasted a bit odd at first bite, and I noticed that the meat was not fully cooked. I raised the issue with the staff, who weren’t that concerned about the health risks and more concerned about whether or not they would knock it off my bill.
Having told them of the issue, I was somewhat surprised to see that they had not checked with other diners who had the platter whether or not their chicken was properly cooked, nor did they seem to stop the flow of the same dish coming out of the kitchen.
It is the lack of attention to detail like this that creates the problem, or allows it to persist even when it has been identified.
As SExP, ToH and others’ posts show, this can happen anywhere.
There is a series of (I think) Chartered Institute of Environmental Health posters that I have seen recently. One shows the outside of an apparently high class restaurant and states “Come in. we have mice.” The sister poster shows a “greasy spoon” cafe, and says “Come in, we have a 5 star environmental health rating.” Exactly the point – appearances can be entirely deceptive.
Simon30 May 2013