Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Food hygiene: name-and-shame

Last night I was dining at a Japanese restaurant when the guy behind the counter wiped his nose with his hands...both of them, then wiped his chopsticks with his fingers before using both the chopsticks and his hands to plate the food.  That got me thinking about hygiene, and the regulation of food safety.

My dining companion then reminded me that Bill Granger's iconic Darlinghurst restaurant received a penalty notice for having a broken thermometer in one of its fridges (there was no suggestion that there was anything wrong with the fridge itself).  As a result, the penalty notice was subsequently listed on the NSW Food Authority's website (the website is officially titled the "Register of Penalty Notices", but the "What's New" section of the website proudly describes it as "Name and Shame").

This got me thinking: the justification often given for such naming and shaming is that it provides consumers with information by which they can make an informed choice about where they source their food.  However, that seems spurious.  

If the relevant offence is significant enough that it could rationally affect a consumer's food-purchasing decision, then surely it should be shut down as a risk to public safety until remedial action is taken.  If it could not rationally-affect that decision (of which the Bill's broken thermometer is a good example) then what is the utility of naming (and shaming) them to begin with?  On the one hand it is an insufficient response to the risk, and on the other hand it is a gratuitous slur occasioned by a technical breach of food safety standards, readily remedied and which did not in the particular case create a risk of harm.

For what it is worth, having been exposed to the publicity at the time, it appears that Bill's is no longer listed on the Register of Penalty Notices.  I don't know why that is, although there is a section that allows the NSW Food Authority to remove information about a particular penalty notice from the Register "if it is satisfied it is appropriate in the circumstances"...whatever that means.  One wonders, if it was appropriate to remove it, why was it appropriate to have the information on the register in the first place?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Today in the High Court: Equuscorp Pty Ltd v Haxton

It’s a pretty dry day today in the High Court as it hears appeals from the judgment of the Victorian Court of Appeal in Equuscorp Pty Ltd (formerly Equus Financial Services Ltd) v. Haxton
In the 1980s the respondents participated in a series of investment schemes involving a blueberry farm project at Corindi in New South Wales.  The appellant, Equuscorp, brought proceedings in the Supreme Court of Victoria, seeking to recover from the respondents as a debt, or alternatively in restitution, the outstanding principal and interest allegedly due under the loan agreements they had each entered into in order to finance their participation in the schemes.  
The trial judge (Byrne J) held that the investment schemes contravened the prescribed interest provisions of the then Companies Code because no proper prospectus had been issued.  The loan contracts could not be severed from the investment scheme transactions, and therefore the loan contracts were also illegal and unenforceable against the investors.  He nevertheless found that Equuscorp had a good claim in restitution against each of the respondents.
The Court of Appeal (Redlich and Dodds-Streeton JJA and Beach AJA) upheld the respondents’ appeals.  The Court found that Equuscorp did not establish that on the facts it had a prima facie entitlement to restitution by reason of total failure of consideration.  
Even if Equuscorp did have a prima facie entitlement, nonetheless the investors’ retention of the loan funds was not unjust in circumstances where: the loans were, in substance, integral elements of investment schemes which contravened the prescribed interest provisions of the Companies Code; the loans funded the investors’ acquisition of interests in the scheme; the loan agreements provided that following two initial payments of capital, the balance of the loans was to be paid with the guaranteed proceeds of the sale of blueberries over a five year term; the investors entered the schemes in order to obtain tax deductions; and there was no evidence that any investor had obtained any benefit by way of a taxation benefit or advantage.
Equuscorp challenges both those findings of the Court of Appeal.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Plural of “Pegasus”

Further to me previous post about plurals, I thought I would share this little gem from one of my favourite tweeps, @FakeAPStylebook who writes:

“The plural of ‘pegasus’ is unnecessary, since there's no such thing as one, much less multiples, and maybe you should grow up.”