Head Of Training, The Healthy Work Company

April 7, 2016

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Caffè Nero cleared of breaches after woman swallows wire

Caffè Nero has been cleared of four counts of breaching food hygiene regulations by a judge at Wimbledon Magistrates’ Court, after a woman swallowed an inch long metal bristle when eating a panini and was forced to have emergency surgery.

Katherine Willans, 34, was eating a panini in the Putney High Street branch of the coffee chain when the bristle, from a wire brush, became lodged in her throat.

Ms Willans was ill for three days before being rushed to hospital on 3 August, 2014, where doctors discovered the bristle in her throat as she underwent surgery.

The court heard how “staff ignored strict training procedures and brought in the wire brush because they thought it was more efficient”.

A number of staff testified during the three-day trial to say they regularly used the brush, despite knowing it went against procedure.

Wire brushes were also found in Caffè Nero branches in Clapham Junction, South London, and Boston, Lincolnshire, it has been reported.

District Judge James Henderson said: “It is easy to think of other steps that might have been taken, but it seems clear that this was indeed indoctrinated into employees during various stages of their training.

“In my view, Caffè Nero have made out the defence that they did indeed take all reasonable precautions and exercised all due diligence.”

A spokesman for Wandsworth Council, which brought the prosecution, said: “This was a very disappointing outcome and was in our view, contrary to the evidence presented to the court.

“At the end of the day an innocent Caffe Nero customer suffered a very serious injury that required surgery under general anaesthetic to put right.

“We felt this incident exposed serious shortcomings in the company’s procedures which is why we brought the case to court, but ultimately we must accept the judge’s verdict.”

After the verdict, Ms Willans, said: “One of my reasons for bringing this case was because I didn’t want an unpleasant experience like this happening to anyone else.

“Changing Caffè Nero’s procedures or protocols could help prevent that happening, but I feel that this verdict doesn’t necessarily mean that they will.

“The point of this case was to change policies so I could be confident this would never happen again. But that hasn’t happened”.

In a statement to The Independent, a spokeswoman for the coffee chain said: “Whilst prosecuted as a result of the injury caused to Ms Willans at their Putney store, Caffè Nero is pleased that the Court dismissed all charges against it and sees it as a vindication of its systems.

“Whilst Caffè Nero regrets the injury caused to Ms Willans the Court accepted that her injury was caused by an unknown member of staff’s actions which were unauthorised and prohibited by the Company.”

The spokeswoman added that the company has never been convicted or cautioned in relation to any food safety matter.


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brian hagyard
brian hagyard
8 years ago

Can reporting standards fall any lower on this web site? Ms Willans could not take a prosecution for food hygiene offences as she is a private individual! She would have to go to the civil courts (and still could with vicarious liability for staff actions.) A simple internet search shows this case was taken by Wandsworth Council not Ms Willans. Please at least get the basic fact right!