A Melbourne student informed reporters that he “nearly choked on his succulent, slow-cooked lamb” when he discovered he would be required to fill out legal documentation if he wanted to take the rest of his leftovers home in a doggy bag.
20-year-old Ross Katsambanis had been enjoying a celebratory meal with his family at Hellenic Republic, a venue co-owned by the popular Masterchef host – George Calombaris - when the incident took place.
However, this isn’t the first time that such an event has taken place. In fact, a number of high-end restaurants throughout the world now issue legal waivers to protect themselves if diners were to become ill from food consumed from a doggy bag.
The Regulations for Doggy Bags
Mr. Katsambanis suggested that the concept was ridiculous, and commented that the whole thing was an example of red-tape being taken too far. It is easy to understand why eateries and restaurants may require a legal waiver to be signed in a form of protection as many consumers aren't aware of basic food safety concepts around re-heating food and the 2 hour-4 hour rule.
Unfortunately, there are no strict rules or regulations in this area, according to John Hart, CEO of Restaurant and Catering Australia. Although food-oriented businesses in Australia have a responsibility to ensure that their diners are not given food that could negatively impact their health, there aren’t any guidelines to follow regarding how and if people should be allowed to take their half-finished meals home with them.
From a legal perspective, restaurants are well within their rights to ask a diner to sign documentation before allowing them to do this.
Australians are living in an increasingly litigious society, which highlights one of the essential reasons why restaurants may be prompted to be more cautious about their food practices. According to a spokeswoman for the MAdE establishments – known for operating prestigious restaurants including Hellenic Republic, Maha and Press Club - the warnings are made in the best interest of the customer.
Ms Calleja stated, “We don’t really know how they’re going to store the food”. Because of this, it’s impossible to know whether a diner’s poor safety standards or the food safety practices of the restaurant would be at fault should an illness occur. Sometimes, food that would have been prepared to an impeccable standard at a restaurant could begin to lose its integrity when left un-refrigerated for too long, or improperly stored.
So next time you ask for a doggy bag at your favourite restaurant, don't be too surprised if you get a contract to go with that.