In Summary
  • One way to get ahead of the situation is by being diligent enough to have kept leftovers of the food, which will be the evidence presented in court.
  • According to lawyer Kamau, a restaurant owes you a duty to deliver well-cooked food handled under hygienic conditions.

It is a typical evening out with friends at your favourite restaurant and you have just finished a delicious meal, a serving of chicken or seafood, cheese, rice and green leafy vegetables.

And then it starts: stomach cramps, tingling and pain, you start feeling hot and sweaty.

Suddenly, galaxies and stars are circling in front of your eyes as the lethargy takes over and the first violent wave of nausea hits you.

This is what happens to the hundreds of Kenyans who have fallen victim to food poisoning. The lucky ones are treated and discharged, the unlucky ones die.

Such cases have cast doubts on how safe the food we eat really is. Recent revelations by the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (Kam) that City Hall has not been evaluating food handlers for almost a year, further raised suspicion among Kenyans.

CERTIFICATION

The fact that no public food handler has been issued with a certificate of health for the same period disheartened Kenyans all the more.

“I used to suffer from food poisoning every other month until earlier this year when I decided to stop eating out. It was clear from all the episodes I had that many food handlers are not maintaining proper standards. No wonder they have those ‘staff only’ door signs,” Diana-Kate Wambui told the Nation evidently upset.

The most recent incident happened in Ruirii village, Nyeri County, where four people died after a bride-price negotiation ceremony turned tragic in a suspected case of food poisoning.

Among the dead was the groom’s mother while 10 others were admitted to different hospitals with cholera-like symptoms, according to Nyeri Director of Health Services Nelson Muriu.

LEGAL CLAIM

Now that we all appreciate how humbling and embarrassing a case of food poisoning can be, did you know that you can sue the hotel or restaurant in which you had a meal that resulted in poisoning?

Lincoln Kamau Wachigo, an advocate, sheds light on how you can go about building your case.

“A lot of questions arise such as, what is your legal claim? Who is liable, hence who can be sued? What do you sue for?” He says.

Mr Wachigo adds that to prove a particular restaurant is legally at fault for causing your illness may be difficult due to the legal principle of causation.

“Realistically, it can be difficult to prove that food from a particular restaurant caused food poisoning. It becomes harder if a lot of time has passed from the time you had the meal to the time you are taken ill because of causation,” he points out.

The burden is therefore upon the sick person to prove that it was food from a specific restaurant that caused the illness.

But how do you prove this especially if you ate in more than one place?

EVIDENCE

Dr Edward Maina, a physician at MP Shah Hospital, says that digestion takes three hours, so being observant enough to note when the symptoms start would be a good place to begin.

Another way to get ahead of the situation, the doctor says, is by being diligent enough to have kept leftovers of the food, which will be the evidence presented in court after testing that the food was indeed contaminated.

“Even in such unique instances, where you decide to have the leftovers tested and the lab analysis reveals the presence of harmful bacteria in the food, it’s likely still not conclusive evidence. This is because if you sue the restaurant, they may claim that you exposed the food to other risks after it left their premises,” Dr Maina said.

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