Timaru man suffers 'biting cramps' and 'severe diarrhea' after stay at Fijian resort
At least 17 people, including a Timaru jeweller, are recovering from a possible bout of food poisoning they picked up while at a conference at a luxury resort in Fiji.
It follows a similar recent incident in which 14 people fell ill while staying at another Fijian resort.
Ron Brown Jewellers owner Stephen Brown arrived in Fiji on June 8 for a conference organised by his parent company, Nationwide Jewellers, at the Denarau Sofitel Resort.
Brown said he had fallen ill from food poisoning previously after eating chicken at restaurants in Singapore, Amsterdam and Luxembourg.
"I did have chicken at a buffet one lunchtime, and my wife says to me, 'when you travel, you don't trust chicken', but you know, you can't resist it."
At the time Brown thought the chicken he was eating had a "bit of a steely taste".
The two days later on June 10, his worst fears about what he'd eaten were realised.
"I just got biting stomach pains. It didn't really stop me from doing our business work or socialising. It wasn't until I got home on Wednesday of this week that things really developed and got progressively worse."
On Sunday morning he said braved a bowl of muesli, the first food he consumed since getting home.
But after feeling even worse than while he'd been away, Brown rang up his GP and went into to see him.
He said his GP was currently running some tests to try and find out precisely what was wrong.
Brown said out of the group of 130 at the conference he knew of 17 or 18 people who had suffered with similar symptoms.
"We started dropping like flies after about the second day, symptoms very similar to food poisoning ... we all started getting the same symptoms, severe stomach cramps and diarrhoea.
"I never ate out anywhere other than the Sofitel resort. You don't expect things to go wrong, you go to a luxury accommodation like this ... there's something not right with hygiene or something. You don't know what they do with food preparation."
Brown said there could have been more who fell ill, as he didn't know everyone in his group.
There had also been a couple of people close to him that hadn't got ill, he said.
Brown said having had food poisoning three other times whilst travelling, he knew what the symptoms were like.
Sofitel Fiji Resort and Spa general manager Alan Burrows said they had "no record of Mr Brown reporting that he was unwell during his stay or since his stay".
"We did not have anyone else from the group reported being unwell, nor did the conference organisers report anyone being unwell. We had one guest with stomach troubles over this period who we arranged medical assistance for, however this was not as a result of a food reaction.
"The group did have some optional activities out of the hotel during their time with us so we did not have total control over all that was consumed by the group.
"Mr Brown's room account shows that he did continue to consume food and beverages every day during his stay."
"We have not offered compensation and at this stage and cannot be certain that any food reaction was as a result of food consumed at the hotel."
Burrows said the hotel was Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) food safety certified by both an international auditing company and the Ministry of Health in Fiji.
"We are the only hotel to have both these certifications and it shows our commitment the safety of our guests."
Our HACCP program is a living, breathing document and we regularly review our procedures, making changes as required from any investigation.
"As we were not aware of Mr Brown's incident an investigation was not held. We will however review our operational logs over these dates now. The nature of food reactions is that it is not always the last meal consumed so we will look at a few days of consumption."
Brown is the latest Kiwi to have reported falling ill after staying at a resort in Fiji in recent weeks.
New Plymouth man Cory Bellringer took his family, including daughters Isla and Ellie, over to Fiji as part of a party of 14.
Vomiting, diarrhoea, cramps and chills confined them to their rooms, which were at the five-star Sheraton in Denarau, near Nadi, and at the Plantation resort on Malolo Island.