Once Again, Yum! Brands Is Guilty of Food Poisoning

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This week an Australian judge found KFC guilty of food poisoning and ordered the company to pay $8.3 million (USD) to the family of a 7-year-old girl who was left brain damaged after eating one of its chicken wraps. In 2005, Monika Samaan, then age 7, shared the chicken wrap with both her parents and brother. All of them became ill with vomiting and diarrhea. Monika, however, fell into a coma for 6 months and became severely brain damaged. The other family members recovered. Stool tests showed that all the family members contracted the same strain of salmonella. A fifth person living with the family, a grandmother, didn’t eat any of the wrap and didn’t become ill.

KFC vigorously fought the lawsuit and claimed it wasn’t the chicken wrap that made the family ill because they couldn’t provide proof that they had even purchased one. The company gave them the old “where is your receipt” argument. KFC is owned by Yum! Brands, which consists of KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.

KFC is a serial offender of food safety. In this case, KFC’s argument ultimately was discounted when the company’s health inspections were brought to light. Those witnessing the trial heard of unhygienic practices at the restaurant described by attorneys as “disturbing and unsettling.” I’m not surprised if Yum! operates its stores in Australia the same way it does in the United States. It’s obvious that bad food safety practices lead to foodborne illness. In fact, just weeks before this incident, 2 KFC locations in Australia were fined $73,000 each for breaches of food hygiene laws. It appears that Yum! is quite slow to react or simply unable to make changes for the sake of food safety and protecting its customers. This inaction has lead to serious personal injury. Monika now has brain damage and is confined to a wheel chair for the rest of her life. The financial costs on her family will be astronomical.

Yum! has a serious problem with serving safe, quality food. Its motto is “Alone we’re delicious, together we’re Yum!” When we look into the company’s outbreak history, KFC and Taco Bell have many lawsuits as a result of claims of illnesses. Their motto should be “Alone we’re suspect, together we’re dangerous.”

In response to the conviction, Yum! has vowed to appeal in spite of all the evidence against it. At least the company is consistent. It’s amazing that such a large organization has a blatant disregard for food safety and lack of respect for its customers. Clearly, if losing millions of dollars in lawsuits isn’t enough to change bad practices, what is?

One last comment for all Yum! customers—make sure to save your receipts! They might be worth a 6-month stay in a hospital and $8 million, but before you do that, you should see this video.

Originally published 4.30.12

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