Hospital catering company sued over mouse head found in food

Hospital catering company sued over mouse head found in food

The catering company that operates at Mater Dei Hospital has been taken to court for breaching food safety regulations when the severed head of a mouse ended up in a nurse's plate last month.

The directors of Quality Catering Services Limited, who were awarded the catering contract at the new hospital, were charged with failing to comply with safety requirements laid down by the Food Safety Act.

According to the law under which the company was charged, the food supplied is considered as having failed to comply with safety requirements if "it is so contaminated, whether by extraneous matter or otherwise, that it would not be reasonable to expect it to be used for human consumption in that state".

The court case, being heard by Magistrate Jacqueline Padovani, was initiated a few weeks after health authorities launched an investigation when a midwife at the hospital reported finding the head of a mouse in her food while eating in the staff canteen on September 1.

The incident triggered panic and the government decided to stop the canteen service and instead give staff an allowance to buy their meals from an outlet of their choice.

Martin Balzan, president of the Medical Association of Malta, and Paul Pace, Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses president, said that over the past weeks they had been in contact with the government to discuss these allowances.

Without divulging any details they both stressed they were not satisfied with the allowance system and wanted their members to be provided with staff meals at the hospital.

"The present situation is not satisfactory," Dr Balzan said, adding that Mater Dei was virtually isolated and doctors worked long hours.

Similarly, Mr Pace said that following meetings last week, his union was now waiting to hear from the Social Policy Ministry on the allowances, before deciding on the way forward.

"Once we know whether this will be a long- or short-term measure, the union will decide what action to take. Our priority is getting food back and ensuring the allowances are an interim measure."

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