Cafe fined for wine error

June 16, 2008 5:27:54 AM PDT
The owner of a New Zealand cafe that mistakenly served dishwashing liquid as mulled wine has been fined for causing emotional harm to two women, court officials said Monday.

Chico's Restaurant Ltd. in the mountain resort of Queenstown on South Island pleaded guilty to a charge of selling food containing extraneous matter - the chemical sodium hydroxide - that caused injury.

Prosecutor Sarah McKenzie told Queenstown District Court that the two women were taken to a hospital after drinking the liquid last July. One victim was a customer who ordered a glass of wine from Queenstown's Old Man Rock Cafe, owned by Chico's Restaurant Ltd.

She spat out the liquid when she experienced a burning sensation on her lips and mouth. A cafe worker offered to test the drink and suffered a similar reaction, the prosecutor said.

Managers at the cafe checked and found that a mulled wine container had been filled with dishwashing detergent.

A judge convicted the restaurant of causing emotional harm to the women and ordered they each be paid $752 in reparations. He also ordered Chico's Restaurant to pay victims' costs totaling $766 and court costs of $772.

Under New Zealand's no-fault accident law, victims do not sue for damages. Instead, treatment costs and income loss are met by the nation's Accident Compensation program.