Australia: Filthy eateries to keep their cloak of secrecy

  • Jason Dowling
  • July 31, 2008

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DOZENS of city food businesses, including restaurants and cafes, have been prosecuted for breaching food hygiene laws in the past five years but Melbourne City Council will not reveal who they are.

The council, which polices and enforces food safety laws in the CBD, said secrecy laws prevented the naming of businesses involved in the 40 food safety related prosecutions one business was fined $75,000.

The council's inability to name restaurants with poor hygiene records comes as a "name and shame" food hygiene website in New South Wales had attracted 25,000 visitors in its first month.

The NSW Government has boasted the new website improved consumer information and "provides a powerful incentive for the food industry to boost its performance".

Calls are growing in Victoria for greater food safety information and protection for consumers.

Opposition consumer affairs spokesman Michael O'Brien said the public had a right to know when a restaurant had broken the law and put customers at risk.

"If they have been charged and convicted then that information should be made available so the public are fully informed before they decide where to eat," he said.

Melbourne has had a string of high-profile food hygiene cases in recent years. In December a restaurant operator and his company were fined $40,000 after mice, cockroaches and pest faeces were found at the Spicy Fish restaurant in Melbourne's Target Centre in Bourke Street.

In June last year a magistrate described the hygiene conditions at Nam Loong Restaurant in Russell Street as those "you would not find in a kennel" after photographs showed live and dead cockroaches and rodent droppings in the restaurant.

Melbourne City councillor David Wilson said the council did not support wider disclosure of poor hygiene discoveries at restaurants.

"We believe that it is not appropriate for details of prosecutions to be released as restaurants may have changed management since the prosecution or they may not have breached food safety regulations since the initial prosecution and publication of a past prosecution could severely impact the viability of the current business," he said.

The State Government is seeking feedback on proposed new food laws for Victoria, but it has ruled out introducing a "name and shame" food safety website.


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