Diners on the Gold Coast and in Cairns could be eating at restaurants repeatedly fined for breaching health standards but wouldn’t know because their councils refuse to reveal who they are.
In Cairns, three restaurants have even been shut down temporarily by the courts to bring them back up to scratch.
Top restaurateurs and food safety advocates say consumers deserve to know which eateries have been caught out so they can make informed choices about where they eat.
Gold Coast City Council confirmed it had prosecuted five eateries in 2013-14, with an average fine of $17,500, while another 98 were given a $550 on-the-spot fine.
While a council spokeswoman admitted there was a matter of public interest in naming restaurants that regularly breached health safety rules, the council still would not reveal any names.
“While it may be in the public interest for the media to report on noncompliant premises at the time of prosecution, City of Gold Coast does not wish to name and shame premises that have been prosecuted in the past and may be now fully compliant,” she said.
Despite this, she said those taken to court had usually displayed a pattern of not following the rules.
A Cairns Council spokeswoman said it was not the council’s policy to reveal the names of restaurants that had been prosecuted.
But she said three had been shut down temporarily because of poor hygiene, while another eight had been issued fines.
Other councils such as Townsville were willing to reveal eateries that violated health standards.
The Chilli Jam Noodle Bar in Townsville was fined $5000 on April 24 for handling food in a way that made it unsuitable for sale – the only prosecution in the 2013-14 financial year.
Since the successful EatSafe program was introduced by Brisbane City Council, it has spread to others including Logan and Bundaberg that have adopted similar programs.
Restaurant 2 owner David Pugh, who helped set up Brisbane’s EatSafe program, said it was important to name repeat offenders.
“It needs to be published,” he said. “If it’s good enough for Brisbane it’s good enough for cities and towns in the rest of Australia. People need to be informed about who is looking after the best interests of their clients.”
Mr Pugh said publishing breaches put pressure on eateries to maintain standards.
Food Safety Information Council boss Juliana Madden said there was no reason not to name restaurants that had been successfully prosecuted for breaches.
Queensland Health Health Protection Unit boss Sophie Dwyer said food safety rating schemes were a matter for local governments.
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