Movie House boss paid victims of restaurant E.coli outbreak over £300,000, court told
Flicks Restaurant had to close its doors when there were over 150 suspected cases of food poisoning - the worst outbreak of E.coli in Northern Ireland's history
More than £300,000 has been paid out to victims of the largest ever outbreak of E.coli food poisoning in Northern Ireland, a court has heard.
Belfast Crown Court was told that compensation was paid to around 80 people by Moviehouse Cinema Limited, the parent company of the former Flicks restaurant.
The Yorkgate food outlet was voluntarily closed two days after a second outbreak emerged. The payments ranged from £3,000 to £12,000.
Moviehouse Cinemas, which was represented in court by its managing director Michael McAdam, admitted a total of 11 separate food hygiene breaches.
They included failing to ensure that food handlers were supervised and instructed, failing to protect foods from E.coli contamination, failing to ensure that staff toilets were kept clean, and keeping food at a temperature which was likely to support the growth of pathogenic micro-organisms or the formulation of toxins.
The court heard that Flicks Restaurant was at the centre of two outbreaks of E.coli in 2012 - one in August which affected four people and a second outbreak detected in October where there were 141 confirmed cases. Two of the 141 cases were members of staff who tested positive.
Those affected included people deemed vulnerable, such as children and a woman who had just undergone a kidney transplant. A total of 44 attended hospital, with 19 of those admitted.
A Crown prosecutor said that while all the physical effects for those who contracted E.coli - such as severe stomach pain and chronic diarrhoea - were overcome within around a week, some victims have been left with anxiety about eating out.
The period of offending when the food hygiene breaches were committed spanned from March 2012 until October 2012. During this period, several practices within the kitchen were deemed to be "wholly inadequate."
The defence barrister said 80 civil cases have been settled amounting to around £340,000, and payments ranged from £3,000 to £12,000. A further 20 to 30 cases are outstanding.
Pointing out that Mr McAdam wasn't a restaurateur and that the day-to-day running of Flicks was left to the manageress, the barrister said Mr McAdam closed Flicks voluntarily in the immediate aftermath of the outbreak and "will not open it again".
Sentencing will take place on April 29.