Claim against operator by holidaymaker poisoned by toxic fish

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A woman is suing a holiday firm for thousands of pounds after contracting food poisoning while on honeymoon in Zanzibar.

Fishing Poisonous fish

Melissa Ker was struck by a potentially fatal stomach bug after eating "an exotic large reef fish" during her stay at the 5-star Mnemba Island Lodge hotel.

Ms Ker, 33, and her husband Douglas, 35, are suing the operator Ultimate Honeymoons, based near Christchurch in Dorset.

The couple stated in a High Court writ that they suffered stomach upsets, cramps and exhaustion after eating what they believed to be red snapper. While Mr Ker quickly recovered, his wife has claimed the illness left her with such crippling stomach pains that she needed surgery and suffered depression.

Ms Ker, a fashion designer, alleges she was still showing symptoms of severe diarrhoea 2 years after the incident and that the poisoning caused her health problems when she was pregnant. She remains "very limited in what she eats".

Mr and Ms Ker claim that the owners of Ultimate Honeymoons, David and Lucy Benton Jones, are liable for staff at Mnemba Island Lodge failing to test for toxins and supplying fish "not of satisfactory quality".

According to their writ, after eating the fish the Kers were poisoned by Ciguatera, a toxin found in sea predators such as barracuda, which eat other fish that consume toxic algae living in coral reef waters.

While Ciguatera is harmless to fish, it is poisonous to humans. The toxin is odourless and tasteless, while its resistance to heat means it is unaffected by cooking.

According to the Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992, holidaymakers who are ill due to food poisoning or poor hotel hygiene should be able to claim compensation from their tour operator if they booked the holiday as a package deal.

However, the co-owner of Ultimate Honeymoons insisted that because the Kers did not formally arrange their holiday with the firm, the couple is "completely wrong".

"They did not book a holiday through Ultimate Honeymoons, although, as they are friends of friends, we did help them get a discount on the booking they made with Mnemba Lodge," said Mr Benton Jones.

"Ciguatera isn't an issue associated with the East African Coast so we don't know why they were ill. We were surprised they didn't inform us about this until 5 months after they returned. We are sorry if they have been ill."


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