Restaurant bosses defend operation

Managers of the Lotus Garden insist they maintain high standards of food hygiene as investigations into double tragedy continue.

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Managers of the restaurant implicated in the deaths of Chelsea and Nathan D'Souza defended the quality of its food yesterday and voiced hope that it would be cleared of any involvement in the case. Chelsea, eight, and Nathan, five, were admitted to hospital along with their mother and housemaid on June 12 after eating a takeaway dinner from the Lotus Garden Restaurant in Al Qusais.

The children died soon after, in what is suspected to be a case of severe food poisoning. The restaurant was shut as a precautionary measure after it was confirmed that it had prepared the meal in question. Parvez TH, a partner in the restaurant, said: "We are anxious and waiting patiently for authorities to finish the investigation." In a statement, the management of the Lotus Garden said no other customers who had ordered takeaway food on the day in question had fallen sick. They said there were no complaints of sickness from eat-in customers, who included children. The statement said: "We have fully co-operated with the authorities and handed over the records of customers and their orders of that day. Officials called our customers who had ordered food that Friday. Those customers confirmed that none of them had any problem or sickness after eating our food."

The management was "shocked" when the police ordered the closure of the restaurant. It is expected to remain closed until the investigation is complete. Food samples were immediately collected by the food control section of Dubai Municipality and the police questioned staff throughout the night and the next day. The management offered their condolences to the D'Souza family but said they kept good standards of food handling in their kitchen.

"We haven't been able to brace ourselves enough to meet the family while we do not have the results of the investigation," said the statement. "Initially, we were hoping that we would be allowed to open the restaurant in couple of days or maximum a week. However, over the weekend the officials indicated that, looking at the sensitivity of the case, the results would only be declared after the investigation by Dubai Police is completed."

The management said details in media reports suggested that the restaurant was not involved in the deaths of the children. The restaurant serves Chinese food. Local residents said yesterday that it was full every night and had many delivery requests. A security guard at a nearby building said: "This was the most popular food outlet in the area. We get eight to 10 deliveries here each day." It is understood the D'Souza family had ordered fried rice, noodles, and fish and chicken dishes.

The restaurant claimed its staff was also suffering. "The anxiety is affecting the health of some of us. Over 18 families are directly affected. We are praying this nightmare is over soon," the statement said. The restaurant has been open for two years. The bosses said they had not been pulled up for any major violations. "We have made sure of training our staff. They also underwent a course of food hygiene and handling. We operate a kitchen that has a see-through window which is open for viewing by all our customers."

The police report is expected to clarify whether or not the restaurant was involved in the deaths.