ACT News


Two Canberra cafes closed for 'serious food safety breaches'

Two Canberra cafes have been shut down for alleged "serious food safety breaches" and "risk to public health".

The Belconnen eatery Ricardo's Cafe and the Central Cafe in Gungahlin had prohibition notices placed on their doors ordering them to cease trading.

Owner of Ricardo's Cafe, Ricardo De Marco, said he was confident he would reopen "any minute" after being forced to close by ACT Health on Tuesday afternoon.

Mr De Marco said on Thursday 15 people had become ill in January and health inspectors had found salmonella on a Chux dishcloth and a tea towel. But he claimed no salmonella was found on equipment used to prepare the food related to the outbreak.

Meanwhile, a note on the door of Central Cafe, understood to be written by the owners, read ACT Health had found their refrigerator "not up to standard".

The note read the owner had ordered new fridges, as well as coolroom and cooking equipment, one month ago. It said ACT health then inspected the cafe on February 10 during "record heat of 41 degrees" and they were forced to close.


Canberrans on social media expressed shock over the closures while others revealed their alleged encounters with salmonella poisoning, which they believe they caught from the Belconnen cafe.

Fairfax Media has been contacted by at least ten people claiming they fell ill after eating at Ricardo's, some as recently as last week. Many questioned the time it took ACT Health to react.

Mr De Marco said ACT Health shut him down over salmonella poisoning related to his smoothies and cronuts, but he also claimed ACT Health found no salmonella on the equipment used to prepare them.

"All I know is that it's from smoothies and cronuts and like I said, there's testing on all of them," Mr De Marco said.

"They came back with the smoothies, so we took it off the menu, and they told us the things we had to change and we did it straight away," he said.

"I've heard stories of people who say they were sick and they didn't know what it was and [ACT Health] asked have you been [to Ricardo's] in the last two weeks and they nailed us on that."

Mr De Marco claimed there was only a week between ACT Health first contacting him and shutting down the cafe.

The cafe was closed on Tuesday and since then he said the kitchen had been stripped and sanitised.

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ACT chief health officer Dr Paul Kelly confirmed the Health Protection Service had identified an outbreak of salmonella at Belconnen cafe.

"Staff from HPS have inspected the cafe and found some issues related with food handling processes and procedures. HPS has served a prohibition order on the premises and is working with the cafe to address these issues," Dr Kelly said.

"The cafe will be closed until such time as the identified issues have been rectified. This action means that there is no ongoing risk to the health of the ACT population from this event."

Katie Skinner, 23, was hospitalised for four days with her doctor telling her she would have been on a dialysis machine if she hadn't arrived when she did.

"In total I had five litres of water pumped in me through an IV drip and I spent four days in hospital and I lost about 8 kilograms in the space of 10 days," Ms Skinner said.

Ms Skinner said she went with a friend to Ricardo's on Tuesday January 31 and had a chicken burger and a mango smoothie. She said she felt sick that night and ended up in hospital with a high temperature, severe dehydration, tachycardia and kidney failure.

Ms Skinner said she was admitted to hospital on Sunday February 5.

She said Ricardo's Cafe was the only cafe she'd eaten at.

Gym owner Pip O'Shea, 34, said she ate at Ricardo's on Sunday February 5 and ate one of the cronuts before she felt sick on the Monday after returning from the gym.

Ms O'Shea said doctors told her it was temporary, but she was in hospital on Thursday after her mother, a nurse, said "you look terrible".

"They did the tests and on Saturday they told me I tested positive for salmonella," Ms O'Shea said.

"ACT Health called me on Sunday. They were only asking me about Ricardo's, and then they went through the menu with me to see what I'd eaten."

Ms O'Shea wasn't admitted to hospital but had to take time off her two jobs, asking people to cover shifts at her gym which she'd opened four weeks ago and organising a relief teacher at the college she taught at.

Dr Kelly said salmonellosis is caused by an infection with the bacteria salmonella and would cause gastrointestinal illness with symptoms including fever, stomach cramps, diarrhoea and vomiting.

It was often spread through the consumption of poorly cooked or contaminated foods. Raw or undercooked eggs, meat and poultry are particularly high risk foods.

Dr Kelly urged anyone with concerns to see a doctor.

With Clare Sibthorpe