ACT News

Salmonella may have been kiss of death for Canberra restaurant

A restaurant in Dickson that served raw eggs that poisoned 162 people – some of who were celebrating Mother's Day – has quietly closed and been sold.

After a final dinner service on a Saturday night in mid-June, the site of Canberra's largest salmonella outbreak now has its lights turned off and had its furniture boxed up.

In May last year, diners at the Pelle Group's newly-opened Copa Brazilian Churrasco restaurant were served mayonnaise in a potato salad made with bad eggs.

The incident kicked off a 30-person strong investigation by ACT Health, where patrons were interviewed and the venue was monitored. In the end, the investigation pinpointed an egg supplier in Victoria as the culprit. 

At the time, the Canberra Hospital's emergency room was inundated with patients clutching their stomachs suffering from gastroenteritis. Fifteen people were hospitalised and the restaurant made a public apology.

The mass poisoning spurred a spate of legal action. In January, one group of 77 diners represented by Canberra law firm Aulich Civil Law, filed papers in the ACT Supreme Court alleging the venue failed to take reasonable precautions for its patrons' health. The civil action was believed to be the largest involving food poisoning in the history of Canberra.

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Another group has now settled with the restaurant's owners. The party of seven recently reached a confidential agreement over damages from food poisoning. A member of that group said he still suffers gastric issues from the incident.

The Pelle Group, a family business, have owned three Italian restaurants called Zeffirelli, all of which have now closed. The last venue in Belconnen closed in February.

The restaurant was run by Joseph Pelle, who hoped to refresh the family's Dickson Zeffirelli pizza outlet with the Brazilian all-you-can-eat barbecue meat theme.

In early June, the restaurant was offering a half price, all-you-can eat banquet for $45 for two people through a deals website. 

Calls made to the restaurant were not returned. The ACT Health Directorate were unable to comment on the matter on Monday afternoon.

An ACT Health spokeswoman suggested that since the egg supplier was in Victoria, the investigation may have been handed over to the Victorian Health Department. Other local businesses in Dickson have reported slower trading conditions this year.

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