A devastated mother is taking legal action after her daughter is allegedly still suffering from salmonella two years after eating at an all-you-can-eat buffet.
Hayley Barnes took then two-year-old Scarlett for lunch at the troubled Babylon Inn in Croydon in February 2015.
The restaurant, which was an all-you-can-eat buffet-style restaurant, served a mixture of cuisines, including Indian, Chinese, Middle-Eastern and Italian.
But two days after the meal, Scarlett began to suffer from gastric illness symptoms including abdominal pain, diarrhoea and a fever.
Hayley, 26, rushed her sick daughter to A&E at Croydon University Hospital, where tests confirmed the two-year old was suffering from salmonella, which is usually contracted by eating contaminated food.
Hayley, who lives in South Norwood, south London, said: “I wouldn’t normally eat in places like that but my sister had been before so we went in for some lunch.
“I felt uneasy when we were in the restaurant as it felt and seemed unclean.
“We could see oily grease stains across the buffet area and we couldn’t see a food hygiene rating on display.
“Scarlett is a bit picky so she had a bit of everything, but a day or two later she started looking pale and grey, had a high fever and was vomiting.
“I took her to A&E and there was blood in her stools so they kept her in to see what was going on and found that she had quite bad salmonella poisoning.
“She was in for a few days and then discharged and looked after at home by children’s nurses, who gave her intravenous antibiotics, then she took them orally for two weeks.”
Scarlett then suffered a prolapsed bowel, which is causing her ongoing medical issues almost two years later, the mum added.
The experience was devastating and stressful for Hayley especially as she had suffered a miscarriage around the same time.
Hayley added: “She kept prolapsing for six-and-a-half months before it was treated at St George’s.
“She’s been ill ever since – she can’t control her bowels, she’s scared to use toilet and she still gets really bad tummy pains.
“It’s been two years now and she’s still being seen by consultants.
“It was only a few months after she got sick that I read about the restaurant’s food hygiene problems.
“There have been times I’ve wanted to go into that restaurant and show them what they’ve done to my child.
“She’s been nothing but ill, she’s starting to get there but she’s got really bad anxiety now.
“2015 was a bad year for us and no one wants to see that for their daughter, I just didn’t know what to do.”
After Hayley and Scarlett had dined at the Babylon Inn, the restaurant was the centre of a food hygiene investigation after inspectors found it was infested with rodents.
Amongst the appalling conditions, inspectors found that there were rodent droppings in the kitchen and chewed packaging, evidence of cockroaches in the storage room and poor food-handling practices by staff.
There was also structural disrepair throughout, health and safety hazards including electrical safety issues, and an incomplete food and safety management system.
The restaurant, which was then owned by Mardan Mahood and his wife Hend Hamud, was visited a total of five times by inspectors in its first four years of trading.
Due to the findings of the inspectors, the owners were taken to court in 2015 and charged with 19 food and safety offences to which they both pleaded guilty.
Hayley said: “She was only two when that happened, and it upset me so much seeing my daughter in severe pain with all these doctors around her.
“I didn’t know what to do, I really wasn’t expecting that.
“She still gets up in the middle of the night screaming because her tummy hurts.
“Her doctor said some cases of salmonella can take years to get out of your system, it’s caused her so much damage.
“She rarely eats now and when she does she’ll only pick at things, I’ve had to just let her eat when she wants because her tummy can’t take it.
“For an adult it’s one thing, but for such a young child it was horrible and it must have affected her quite badly.”
Hayley, also mum to Kian, one, has now instructed lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate the cause of her daughter’s illness.
Serena Patel, specialist public health expert, said: “The appalling conditions that were present in the Babylon Inn when it was serving food to members of the public are completely unacceptable.
“Whilst it is positive that actions have been taken to remove the owners, it is concerning that a young girl has spent half her life fighting an illness caused by for a complete disregard for the safety of others shown by the owners of the Babylon Inn.
“We have worked with thousands of people who have fallen ill as a result of outbreaks of food poisoning, both in the UK and abroad, seeing first-hand the impact which gastric illness can have on the victims’ day-to day lives and their long-term health, but the tragic consequences in this case are some of the most heart-breaking.”