Your Right to Claim for Food Poisoning Against a Travel Company Explained


It is coming to that time of year again when Simpson Millar LLP are inundated with enquiries from consumers that wish to know whether they are entitled to claim against their travel company for illness and food poisoning suffered on foreign holidays.

Hotel Food Poisoning

Whether or not you can claim compensation for food poisoning suffered on holiday depends on a number of factors, which is why we always advise people to make use of our initial free consultation. We realise, however, it is not always convenient for people to contact us immediately so below we set out some of the factors we take into consideration when assessing your legal rights.

Tour Operator, Travel Agent or Hotel?

The first factor we will need to assess will be to determine whether you booked a package holiday with a UK based tour operator.

While most consumers that book holidays treat travel agents and tour operators as one and the same, there are subtle differences which could impact on your right to sue.

A tour operator will be the company that organises your holiday and is responsible for your safety while travelling, and at your holiday destination. The tour operator will be the company you can sue if something goes wrong.

A travel agent in most cases will usually, but not always, be a "middleman" between the tour operator and yourself. For example if you have booked a Thomas Cook package holiday through a Thomson Travel Agent, you would have to sue Thomas Cook. Thomson would best be perceived in that instance as a ticketing agent.

Sometimes, however, a travel agent may intentionally or otherwise put together a package holiday which means you can sue them.

If you have not booked a package holiday it may be that you have to sue the hotel directly – which can be difficult if the food poisoning was caused by an overseas hotel.

Board Basis

This is a crucial element in establishing your rights. If the food poisoning commenced 2 or 3 days into your package holiday and you were staying at an all-inclusive hotel you would have far better grounds to sue your travel company. That is because, on balance, your illness is most likely to have been caused by food eaten at the hotel. Responsibility here lies with the tour operator.

By contrast if you were staying in self-catering accommodation and the provision of meals was not included in your holiday cost, your right to sue the tour operator could be significantly impaired – even if you purchased all your meals from your self-catering hotel. This is because it is likely that you will have entered into separate contracts directly with the hotel for the provision of food. If you think your food poisoning was caused by meal purchased from them you would probably have to sue in the country in which the accommodation is based.

Tour Operator and Hotel Food Safety Obligations

If you have suffered food poisoning abroad you will usually have to show that staff employed by the tour operator or hotel are at fault.

What this means is that the tour operator or hotel staff engaged in an activity or failed to do something that made the food unsafe for human consumption.

The obligations of a tour operator in respect of food safety tend to be of a general nature. They will be obligated to monitor sickness levels and inspect the hotel to ensure they have systems in place to ensure food and drink is safe.

The hotel's obligations will be more specific. They will be responsible for ensuring that your actual meals are safe. This means they will have to ensure meals and buffet food is stored and cooked properly and does not become contaminated by poor practices such as failure to wash hands and use of the same utensils for the preparation of raw and cooked food.

The rules and regulations relating to hotel restaurants will be those in which the country is based as opposed to those found in the UK. The standard of safety and degree of regulation varies from country to country.

Even if your tour operator did everything right in attempting to ensure that the food was safe, you can still sue them if the hotel staff did something that caused your illness. This is because in putting together your holiday they are responsible for the actions of the hotel staff as well as their own staff.

Your Holiday Rights Explained

We realise that knowing who your tour operator is, who to sue and hygiene regulations can all be quite daunting. Unfortunately it is not possible to explain everything about your legal rights in one small article. Your right to sue the tour operator will depend on the facts and your individual circumstances, which is why it is important to seek advice.

Our lawyers are experts in bringing claims against tour operators for food poisoning suffered on holiday. In one quick phone call we can get to the nub of whether you can or cannot claim.

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