The Spectre of Food Poisoning

So I’m looking for how you would handle this… tr/short version-- I went with — head in the sand; deny deny deny.

     Customer calls in day after, to say her Husband had a sausage sub and got food poisoning from my place. Gonna call the Board of Health etc... (three A's in a row, my guys r good) I don't recognize the name...head chef remembers the man, the order,  and said sub... all kosher. lool 
  There is a MAJOR flu thing ripping around my smallish (in the winter) locale.  None of my employees has it. 

I know Corporate places throw money at these people right or wrong…what say you TT?

   Sausage is itallian, mild rope, boiled for two hours ish,  then hand sliced. 

   THEN: cooked again: 
             a)on pizza 
             b)on flat top for subs.

I know I need a policy for this, it’s just never come up. But I don’t think we did a damn thing wrong…which i guess is why we need a policy that even i have to follow.

i’ve just always been trained (by very seasonal Indies) if you admit to it, you give them an opening, and possibly a legal foot to stand on…then they own you…

OK-- Sorry me and my glass of wine ran out of capital letters towards the end!-- Thanks----Bout

I would contact 2 or three others that ordered similar items and ask them about their experience. Were you greeted prompted, was you server polite and knowledgeable? Was your food prepared correctly? etc etc. Make it sound like a casual survey you are doing to improve service. Don’t tell them you have a complaint, but you give them an opening to tell you if there was a problem. If you tell them someone said they got sick, a good percentage of people will start feeling sick themselves because the thought was planted in their brain that they ate bad food.


This needs to be reported to your insurance broker/company…

Now i know from discussions like this in the past, some owners will say otherwise…But liability insurance policies have “reporting” clauses…If you do not report this and some time in the future it comes back to “bite” you your insurer may deny coverage (defense costs & claim payments) for “non reporting”…Sort of dammed if you do and dammed if you do not…So better to be safe than sorry…

PS…I spend many years as an insurance adjuster so my comments on based on my experience…

I’m with Royce, insurance company needs a “heads-up”, and I’m not so sure I wouldn’t give a shout to the health department myself to get out front of it. I’ll follow that though with reminding that I’m in a very small county, very small town so I know all 3 of my inspectors personally and we have always had a great working relationship, they don’t have the power headed egos that I think some departments may have.

The odds of contracting an actual food born illness is highly unlikely though, however we all tend to jump to that conclusion at times when the bug hits. If the supposed “food poisoning” didn’t have an onset that would be symptomatic with most common poisonings, it’s the flu and nothing more. Good luck trying to convince this couple of that though, I doubt you’ll be seeing them again either way even if it turns out that you were just the chance “last meal”.

How would I handle it?

I would tell them to report the incident to the Health Inspector and let them know that we would also. Then I would call my Health Inspector and report it.

One incident does not make an outbreak of food-borne illness. And “the last thing you ate is likely not the thing that actually made you sick” is better explained by a health professional.

This is exactly the right thing to do. My health department actually provides forms for this type on complaint. See if your inspector does.

I would do nothing at all! No health or insurance call need to be made. My…how do you say… aunt in law… is the director or health and human services for a 3 state area. I have had this conversaion with her many times about many items. First being a precooked item that was then cooked again is a big help here. Second…food poisoning does not take effect that fast in 99% of all cases. Most real FOOD illnesses take 36-72 hours to really show up. Now a lot of stomach bugs can show up in 6-12 hours… but you are not responsible for all worldwide illness exposure… unless you are really doing something wrong here. You said your health inspections are up to date and good. Ask this…have you ever had a real case of food contamination or any recalled items? Go spend a couple hours with an entire shop cleanup and have a required employee meeting to cover the fact that the real flu bug is going around and to be extra careful with all cleanup and food handling. If this person wants to file a complaint… let them. What happens…well you will probably get an inspection visit…so make sure temps are all working for holding and storage… and if there is any chance this is real…two other things will have already happened…first would be the other 50 phone calls about your sick customers and someone would have been to the ER and the blood cultures would already have been reported to the same health dept that this customer wants you to think they are calling. The only call I would make is if you get anymore sausage specific calls… call your sales rep and explain the whole thing… make sure that the sausage is common to all pizzas ordered and see if this has any real evidence behind it. I would also take time to research the timeframes of real foodborne illnesses and get info from the local health dept to support you. Yes these is always a chance this is legit…but not likely. DO NOT PAY OUT ANYTHING or you are now set up for one sick call a week!

As far as how to respond to the customer. Apologize that they are not feeling well. Inform them of your strick written food handling and health dept inspection programs that are followed and that your certificates are on display as required. Also, as per I believe any health dept complaint… the sick person MUST seek immediate medical treatment to determine the cause of said illness. Most give up there. If you feel bad for them and they are not sounding like a total scam… refund their money or offer a free pizza for their next visit. NO NOT ADMIT ANY FOODBORNE ILLNESS AS THE CAUSE!!!

Very good advice given but please consider this. The NOROVIRUS. It is in many cases EXACTLY like food poisoning. Oddly enough, after helping with a move, Papa Johns was ordered, wing dings and pizza. I took one bite of the pizza and gagged. It was just disgusting. I did have two wings and ended it there. Around 2AM, sick as a dog. I called everyone involved in the move and the meal and everyone was OK. Fast forward one day, it totally slammed our family and friends. It is a horrible virus and attacks each individual in different strains. Google it, it is hitting everywhere.

Good Luck


I just took note you are on the Cape. It has hit Mass very hard. I would make a few calls to the agencies involved to get information on quarantines, the strain and the number of cases reported.


Noro is one of the main reasons they will send you for bloodwork before starting a restaurant panic. It can hit in 4-12 hours and like stated it mimics some of the worse foodborne illnesses out there. Probably what this was. I have a 4 year old in pre-k and I am all too aware of Norovirus. It sucks! I would still follow my advice and the reason I did not first mention Noro is because I would not try to self diagnose their issue as they may take that as an attempt to cover up a real issue. If it is real food poisoning…the time frame really does not fit. If it is Noro then it is possible. If it hasnt cleared itself up then they should seek medical attention and if the dr’s find something the health dept will contact you to help track and prevent any further outbreaks.

Hey guys sorry for abandoning my thread… my laptop went down right after I peeked at your answers… and since I’m a cheap bastid I bought the part on ebay and fixed it :wink: (I hate trying to type on my tablet) Answers were divided enough that I was Ok with how I handled it. I did talk to three other custys that I knew personally that had the snausages that night… they were all fine. I do def need to put in place a protocol for when I’m not here, just still very divided on what it should be. Also talked to board of health off the record…she told me noone called them; and therefore keep my mouth shut. Def looks like it’s one of those situations where what an indie does, is NOT what a chain/corp does…so c’est la vie. bc i DID lose a customer but…I think that was happening even if I gave them all sorts of free shite. oh well live, learn, and keep working. ty all though u rock!–Bout

Blue a couple of things. You mentioned cooking rope and cutting…so you are dealing inhouse with raw materials. You need that writen policy and this is something that 99.9% of small businesses do not even think about. Go take a food handling and safety course at your local comm college. Get an update on temps and cross contamination…HACCP…etc. Then you also can write a custom program specific to your place. Also having that certificate helps a bit if you ever do have a real problem and not just a customer with a tummy ache looking for a payday! Back when I took my first couple of classes way back in the day they were really inexpensive and some free from the county health dept. Take a little time to protect your operation. :idea:

My county requires at least one manager type have a 2-day course, and everyone working must have a 2-hour course. Not free, by any measure!

A couple of weeks ago I stepped out to walk to the gas station next door to scoop something up. When I got back my second in command told me that a customer told her leave his slice in the oven extra long cause there is too much bacteria around and he gets sick every time he eats my pizza. Oddly enough I held the door for him on his way out while I was walking in said have a good night so on so on. It wasnt till I got into the restaurant when they girl who works for me told me this. I couldnt do anything but laugh. honestly, A) YOUR HERE - if it was that bad, you wouldn’t be B) i sell 30 pies a day in slices. Nothing is ever more than an hour old, and lets be real we all went to college. Ive eaten plain slices 10 hours after siting on the counter.

fast forward a week ago…
im working lunch and here he comes. He tells me he always loved my pizza but I changed it. Its totally different and it makes him sick. he still ordered a slice. He took one bite, turns around and said its terrible. my first instinct eat a slice. I kindly asked him to hang around for a minute while i tried it. I sliced my slice in 3. My delivery guy, a very loyal customer sitting in the dining room eating, and I all ate one. My answer matched up with both of the other parties involved in this slice testing. It was F-in great. Maybe even better than usual. I told him in the nicest way possible " sir, I think you don’t like the pizza here and I’ll be happy to give you back your money"

Moral of the story. People are actually dumber than you think

quicly bc I’m tired :wink: qfc… my town requires minimum two serve safecerts to get my license. with min one in building at all times of operation. I have 85% of my staff certified including myself and my brother. I also stole the kitchen manager of a major chain who is highly trained in this. so we do take it seriously, and do know what were doing.p akula… I never under estimate the stupidity of the general public :frowning: and it never ceases to disappoint/embarrass me.:frowning: