Contaminate Food on Purpose? Never. Never! NEVER!!!

I had just posted my previous article on adulterated food, contaminated food, and other intentional tampering with food and beverage, when I got a call from one of my close friends in the restaurant industry. He’d seen my article and told me how opportune the timing was as he and his staff had just been discussing a current news story about the very same issue. It seems that the online review site Yelp is being sued to reveal the identity of a reviewer who left an extremely disparaging (and highly questionable in authenticity) review of a famous New York City steak house. The claim in the review is that waiters (including the reviewer himself) regularly spit in customers’ food. All indications are that this review is bogus, and investigation at this time is pointing toward the possibility of a disgruntled would-be employee who applied but never got a job of any kind at the establishment.

There should never be the slightest doubt that this was handled with care.

There should never be the slightest doubt that this was handled with care.

So this particular story is more about how anyone can post anything on a review site in an anonymous or concealed way, an potentially cause serious harm to an establishment’s reputation. That is a real issue that needs to be addressed, but I want to mention something that came up in some of the online discussion related to this story. Some commenters (of who knows what ages and backgrounds) made quite a few cavalier comments about tampering with food, in particular spitting in food. Here is one example:

<From an online commenter, who said they had been a food server> I had a particularly obnoxious table to deal with one very busy Friday night. At the end if the meal they started cracking all the jokes about tips and not eating yellow snow etc. I smugly replied” I have a tip for you too, never piss off your server until after you have eaten your meal!” They were all horrified “you wouldn’t they cried”, “you’ll never know” I replied! Priceless!

Now this particular story might be as made up as the one mentioned in the opening paragraph, and it only refers to the threat of tampering with food as opposed to any real instance, but it underscores just how important it is for restaurants to control this issue. Here are some bullet points (expanding on the previous article’s points) for restaurant managers and operators to consider when setting policies and training their staff:

  • Contaminating food on purpose is an immediately terminable offense
  • This refers Intentional contamination of food in any fashion or amount
  • Customer’s food must be treated with the highest respect and care; customers have put their trust in us and we will honor that trust
  • We will not joke about, insinuate, threaten, or imply that food might be contaminated even if it is intended to be in jest or just between employees
  • Intentional contamination of food, or knowingly serving or storing (for later service by others) contaminated food or ingredients is a terminable offense and may be a criminal or civil offense as well
  • Any reports of suspected or implied contamination will be dealt with seriously and investigated thoroughly
  • All staff in every position must acknowledge their commitment to serving wholesome and pure food

That’s a start! I am eager to hear from more of you in the restaurant business about how you ensure that this issue is taken very seriously in your restaurants!

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