Food safety concerns lead to doggie bag ban in New Zealand

Waitress_TakeOrder_Getty_LowResTaking leftovers home with you after a meal out at a restaurant is a normal sight to see, but what if next time you couldn’t finish your meal you were denied a doggie bag? Well, this may be a new trend in New Zealand as at least 50 restaurants have banned doggie bags and initiated a “no takeaways” policy because they no longer want to risk diners falling ill after eating leftovers.

“The food’s already been sitting on the table for about an hour, then you get a doggie bag, then it sits for half an hour on the table, sits in the car, then gets eaten a couple of days later,” said Dominque Parat, owner of Mekong Baby, a fine-dining restaurant in Ponsonby, Auckland. “I don’t want to risk food poisoning.”

And Parat is not alone in his thinking. A Kapiti Coast restaurant known as The Social at Kapiti Lights, has also banned doggie bags, citing health and safety concerns.

“If someone takes food home, doesn’t heat it properly and gets sick, they’ll probably blame us,” owner Phil Ryan, said. “Some people got upset they couldn’t take a burger home, but it’s all about food safety.”

However, the Ministry of Primary Industries is clear that food taken home from a restaurant becomes the responsibility of the diner, and Kapiti Coast District Council, along with other councils in the Wellington region, said they had no rules against doggie bags.

“If you take the food away, the safety of that food is up to you,” the ministry’s website states. However, there are no rules that make restaurant operators provide carryout containers. And according to the article, operators may refuse to let leftovers be taken home because they run the risk their food could be mishandled and then blamed if someone becomes ill.

“I would rather have a bad review for keeping people safe than making people sick,” Ryan said. “It’s not about ripping people off, honestly.”

Ryan also added that most restaurants par-cooked their food, so customers could be reheating their leftovers for a third time. This can increase the amount of bacteria that can grow on foods, leaving the consumer at a greater risk of becoming sick.

Duck Creek restaurant, in Pauatahanui, has a slightly more lenient policy and say they try to stop diners from taking chicken leftovers home with them.

“We strongly discourage that,” head chef Dean McFarland said in the article. “If it’s a steak or some chips that’s fine, but chicken can go off too quickly.”

Maggie Edwards, consumer adviser at Consumer NZ, said the practice of taking food home was a custom, not a right, and said she understands why some restaurants are being extra cautious.

“People think they have paid for the food and can take it off the premises, but it’s a customary thing.”

In Wellington, restaurant owner Steve Logan said doggie bag requests were welcome, and that it’s flattering to be asked for one. “We like to treat our customers like adults and trust they have the common sense not to leave food lying on the bench when they take it home.

“These days you don’t want to say no to the customer, ever.  They’re all-powerful, and always right in hospitality.”

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