Friday, 19 October 2012

City Council takes over 'nitro drink' investigation

Gaby Scanlon - still in hospital after
'nitrogen drink' incident

Image posted publicly on facebook
Following the conclusion of Lancashire Constabulary’s investigation into the liquid nitrogen incident in which an 18 year old Heysham girl Gaby Scanlon was hospitalised shortly after being served a drink containing liquid nitrogen, the matter has now been formally handed over to Lancaster City Council to investigate under safety and food legislation.

As was widely reported, both here on virtual-lancaster and elsewhere, the incident occurred on the evening of 4th October at a Lancaster bar and the girl underwent emergency surgery.

Gaby had to have her stomach removed after drinking a liquid nitrogen cocktail - and is still in hospital, but speaking to the Lancaster Guardian this week, her mother Lisa Henshall has praised local medical staff for saving her life.

The Council's Environmental Health Officers were initially advising and assisting the police investigation under established inter-agency working arrangements and used powers under the Health & Safety at Work Act to formally prohibit the bar from serving drinks containing liquid nitrogen.  They also took possession of the liquid nitrogen equipment on the premises.

The council's investigation will now examine further the causes and circumstances of the incident and whether any offences have been committed.  A family liaison officer has been assigned to the injured person and her family following their traumatic experience.

The council is in contact with the Food Standards Agency and liaising with other local authorities and the Health & Safety Executive.

Meanwhile, Morecambe MP David Morris has begun a campaign to ask Parliament to consider banning liquid nitrogen being served in drinks and the Food Standards Agency is currently advising against drinking liquid nitrogen in a posting on their website.

"There are safety and handling guidelines around the use of liquid nitrogen, especially in relation to food," commented the FSA’s Head of Incident Management, Colin Houston. "It is the business owner’s responsibility to make sure that their staff have been trained and are aware of the potential risks of using liquid nitrogen. They also have to have appropriate safety measures in place to protect both their staff and consumers.

"The FSA will be making local enforcement officers aware of the practice of using liquid nitrogen in the use of cocktails and it will be something officers can incorporate as part of their inspection regime.

"We’re also working with other departments and agencies to investigate the issue and whether we need to take any further action."

Food manufacturers, retailers and businesses in the UK have a legal obligation to make sure that any and all food they are serving to the public is fit for human consumption.

The city council says it is their policy not to comment on the detail of ongoing regulatory investigations and they do not plan to make any further media statements. The investigation is likely to last a number of weeks.

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