• Thu. Feb 2nd, 2023

TUI holidaymaker suffers violent allergic reaction after Ibiza hotel buffet

Jul 3, 2019

A holidaymaker with a seafood allergy was left violently ill during a TUI holiday to Ibiza after she suffered reactions to food prepared with contaminated kitchen utensils.

Her husband is threatening to sue TUI – and is warning other travellers off using their services.

Mum-of-two Angela Eckersley, 38, who has a severe allergy to all seafood and shellfish products became severely unwell after kitchen staff at Magic Life Cala Pada served her food with utensils used to cook mackerel and chicken.

She also accidentally ate calamari – thinking they were onion rings.

Mrs Eckersley spent several days of the holiday with her husband and two children being sick, and had to be put on a course of steroids when she returned home to the UK.

She has since been diagnosed with new extreme allergies including one to animals.

This week Mrs Eckersley's husband Christian, also 38, threatened to sue TUI after turning down the travel giant's offer of £1,000 compensation following the 2018 holiday.

The hotel itself had tried offering him just one day's worth of car hire.

Mr Eckersley, of Chorley, Lancashire, a finance company director said: "TUI have been disgraceful in their customer relations and have taken nearly a year to respond."

"My wife could have died but no one seems to care especially after the Pret a Manger allergen case."

He continued: "We had holidayed with TUI for our last three holidays before this and usually they were attentive to my wife's condition but never again.

"If someone with allergies is affected badly it can mean life and death. TUI don't seem to care about this because my wife luckily wasn't hospitalised when she fell ill on their holiday.

"But she was constantly being sick due to eating cross-contaminated food but according to TUI that doesn't seem to count.

"I wouldn't recommend anyone with a serious allergy to holiday with them after what we went through, as they could be risking death.

"The hotel first tried to claim that it was my wife's fault and that they had been clearly labelled calamari. But when I showed him the pictures he soon backed down.

"What the hotel tried to offer was a complete insult, after all the stress we had been through with my wife being constantly sick throughout the holiday."

The construction planning manager, who can suffer anaphylactic reactions if she comes into contact with seafood, was diagnosed with the allergy in 2005.

She carries an Epipen with her at all times and she makes sure where ever she goes that bosses at hotels and restaurants are aware of her potentially life-threatening condition.

The incidents occurred after the couple and their two daughters went on two-week family holiday to the resort.

The couple say they were reassured by previous trips with TUI that Mrs Eckersley's allergies would be well-catered for and she would be safe.

But after they had arrived, they visited the pizza counter and saw a female server using the same pizza tongs to replenish a salmon pizza and a separate ham and cheese pizza. When they pointed out about the risk of cross-contamination they were told 'we have only one pizza cutter in the hotel so you can't have pizza'.

Mrs Eckersley avoided pizza but a few days later she fell ill and was violently sick after her husband spotted servers using the same utensil to cook fish and chicken.

The couple complained and received an apology letter from the guest services manager who said all catering staff had been informed and it wouldn't happen again. The following day Mrs Eckersley, woke with a badly swollen face, a migraine and repeated vomiting – all signs of an allergic reaction.

Mrs Eckersley said: "I realised I had an allergic reaction to contamination with seafood which I had had before so I took lots of antihistamines to counter act it. I had been told to keep the Epipen for emergencies only and I didn't want to use them until I really needed them. So I took more antihistamines."

A few days later she felt a bit better and reassured from the letter that she was now in safe hands. She took what she assumed were onion rings from the lunch pool snack bar but which turned out to be calamari.

She added: "I immediately had to go to my room to be sick and take extra antihistamines to avoid using my Epipen. My family were incredibly distressed and worried."

Mr Eckersley then took pictures of the hotel buffet in which there appeared to be no labelling of tuna fish in a Provençal salad – although the salad does traditionally contain the fish – or of foodstuff on a salad bar.

Under EU food labelling regulations introduced in 2014 restaurants should list ingredients that may trigger allergies.

This includes listing dishes containing fish and crustaceans.

He added: "I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I was worried and told them what they were doing was dangerous. I also took photos of the lack of labelling on the foods and reported what I had seen to TUI and the hotel management."

But days later despite a special staff meeting on how to cook safely, Christian filmed a female server using the same utensil to cook mackerel and chicken and fish again.

Mrs Eckersley added: "Clearly all the messages we had been assured had been made to the catering staff in team meetings were falling on deaf ears. Surely a four star-plus hotel has more than one set of cooking utensils?"

"The hotel did agree to pay for me to see a doctor but worryingly he said had never seen an Epipen before and spent a good deal of time asking me about them. I was very glad then that I was going home soon."

Travel Lawyer Paul Stevens of Simpson Millar solicitors said complaints about food labelling need to be thoroughly investigated owing to the potentially severe consequences.

He said: "This case demonstrates the real risk for allergy sufferers eating abroad. Both customers and those responsible for providing food, including tour operators, need to be vigilant to minimise the risks of the wrong food types being consumed."

A spokeswoman for TUI said: "We are very sorry to hear of Mrs Eckersley’s experience in Ibiza. We have listened to the customer's feedback and we understand the impact this must have had on her holiday. We are in direct contact to apologise and offer a gesture of goodwill.

"We would like to reassure customers that we regularly audit all of the hotels we feature in respect of health and safety, including food safety."

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