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Careless Chemical Handling Proves Costly

Tuesday 22 January, 2013

Careless Chemical Handling Proves Costly

Serving moss and mould remover instead of a soft drink has proved costly for the Avondale RSA and one of its cleaners in a case brought by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

At today’s sentencing in the Waitakere District Court, the Avondale RSA was ordered to pay $1,500 reparation to each of the two victims and to pay $ 748.65 to MPI in analyst costs. RSA cleaner Julie Taipeti was ordered to pay $300 reparation to each victim. No fines were ordered due to both defendants’ limited financial means. His Honour Judge Mather said that the RSA’s reparation awards to the victims would have been $3,000 each if the RSA’s financial position meant it could pay that.

Two women were hospitalised after drinking the poisonous substance on February 23, 2012 while they were at the RSA celebrating one of the women’s birthday. Both women have said in their victim impact statements that they suffer ongoing emotional harm from the incident. An MPI investigation found that one of the RSA’s cleaners, Julie Taipeti, had decanted some moss and mould remover into an empty soft drink bottle. That bottle was inadvertently left in the bar area at the RSA after she used it to clean the toilets.

Some time later it was placed in the drinks’ chiller by another RSA staff member and from there it was sold as lemonade to one of the complainants.

Both defendants pleaded guilty to charges laid under the Food Act 1981 and Food (Safety) Regulations 2002 at the first reasonable opportunity.

“This serious case clearly illustrates the crucial need for food and beverages to be labelled appropriately and stored separately from chemical agents,” MPI northern compliance manager Greg Keys says. “There is an obvious danger associated with using a drink bottle to keep a substance that could cause poisoning, and doing so defies common sense.”

Mr Keys says he has been pleased to learn that the RSA management has updated its Health and Safety Manual since the incident to include directions to never put cleaning products in drink containers, and to never return any drinks from the bar to the chiller.


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