Curry fans struck down by food poisoning get compensation

Dozens of food poisoning victims have received a joint pay-out of £400,000 after falling ill with a number of gastric problems, some of whom still have issues four years on, following a curry festival.

Almost 50 visitors of the Newcastle Street Spice Festival in 2013 suffered gastric illness symptoms following the food poisoning scandal caused by raw curry leaves.

An estimated 12,000 people went to the event between February 28 and March 2 at the city’s Centre for Life with over 400 visitors reporting diarrhoea, abdominal pain and vomiting.

Over 12,000 people went to the event in Newcastle and 400 people claimed they were made ill

Public Health England (PHE) and Newcastle City Council carried out an investigation into festival organiser, Bob Arora of popular restaurant Sachins, and found that raw curry leaves used in chutney were contaminated by several different bacteria.

There were 29 confirmed cases of varying strains of salmonella and other harmful bacteria including E.coli and shigella were also found to have been present and may have caused illness. 

Some of those affected were found to have contracted more than one of these harmful bacterial infections.

PHE stated at the time that it was one of the UK’s largest outbreaks and also the first time one of the strains of salmonella identified had been detected in the country.

Now the curry-goers have hailed victory after specialist public health lawyers at Irwin Mitchell secured settlements for all of the cases in which they were instructed following the outbreak.

The combined total of damages recovered for the attendees, from the event organiser’s insurance company, reached over £400,000, with individual settlements ranging from £1,200 to £29,000 depending on the severity and impact of the individual’s illness.

Kerry Smith received a five figure sum after suffering  from stomach pains, vomiting and diarrhoea shortly after attending the festival

Kerry Smith, 36 from Wallsend, North Tyneside, was one of the attendees of the festival and visited on the opening day with her then boyfriend, now husband, Michael, 52.

Kerry began to suffer from stomach pains, vomiting and diarrhoea shortly after attending the festival and consuming the raw curry leaves. She still continues to suffer from some gastric issues – some four years on.

Kerry said: ‘I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. It was awful and I wouldn’t want to go through that again. The first few days were horrendous and I was off work for two weeks. I had horrible stomach cramps, was being sick and of course the diarrhoea, it was the worst.’

Smith still has gastric problems today but is happy with the result of the investigation 

Data analyst Kerry added: ‘You would have thought it was caused by chicken or another meat but you don’t expect it to happen from curry leaves.

‘I got a five figure sum and I think this a victory for all of us. There were a lot of us who were affected.

‘Visiting the festival on the day was an enjoyable experience but it has now become memorable for all of the wrong reasons. I am still suffering from gastric illness due to the food I ate at the festival and this has affected my lifestyle. I hope that this settlement can now help me to move forward.’

Another claimant, Scott Russell, 37, from Westerhope, attended the festival with his wife, Abigail, age 39, and their daughter, Katie, 4, on the closing day with all three family members falling ill with similar symptoms, including diarrhoea and stomach pains, shortly after. Scott and Abigail continue to suffer with problems to this day, however Katie has recovered.

Scott said: ‘The past three years since we attended the Street Spice Festival have been really difficult, as Abigail and I are still suffering from gastric illness.

The Environmental Health Office has been able to suggest changes in legislation in the use of curry leaves in order to prevent any further instances of food poisoning 

‘Like the many other people affected by the outbreak following the event, we are glad that our cases have been settled and we can try and put this ordeal behind us.’

At the time of the outbreak Festival organiser Bob Arora of popular restaurant Sachins, on Forth Banks, Newcastle, told the Chronicle that learning of the outbreak had been ‘the worst’ time of his life.

He said the event, which involved 16 food businesses, had ticked all the boxes in terms of food hygiene, and stall holders were all extremely experienced.

 ‘We are pleased that the matter has now been settled with our insurers and that they themselves are pursuing a claim against the suppliers of the curry leaves’ Arora said. 

The Environmental Health Office has also been able to suggest changes in legislation in the use of curry leaves in order to prevent any further instances of food poisoning.

‘Prior to the outbreak, the use of curry leaves in cooking was an extremely grey area, with no indication that raw leaves would be harmful to anyone’s health. 

‘Although the curry leaves were washed thoroughly prior to use by the vendors it was unfortunate that the contamination remained,’ Arora added.

Amandeep Dhillon, Partner and Head of Public Health at Irwin Mitchell, who oversaw the group action, said: ‘These settlements will finally give those who suffered with illness after attending the Newcastle Street Spice Festival some closure and they can move on with their lives.’

The Environmental Health Office has also been able to suggest changes in legislation in the use of curry leaves in order to prevent any further instances of food poisoning. 

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