Mum wins compensation battle with Butlins over gluten-free muffins trauma (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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Clare Garbutt made ill after food mix-up
7:00am Monday 17th September 2012 in News
A mum poisoned by a chocolate muffin at Butlins has won the right to compensation after violent sickness wrecked a precious family holiday.
Coeliac sufferer Clare Garbutt, 28, must not eat products containing wheatflour and so took her own gluten-free muffins on the four-day break to Skegness in April. “I took them to enjoy as a special pudding on our only holiday of the year,” said the single mum-of-one, of Allerton , Bradford.
But unknown to her, catering staff in the Butlins restaurant swapped her muffins for an ordinary one – causing Clare to vomit uncontrollably within minutes.
“If I eat something with gluten it hits my stomach and has to come straight back up,” she said.
“Within half an hour I was dizzy and sweating and only just made it to the loo to be terribly sick.”
Desperately ill and confined to her apartment, her holiday was ruined and the symptoms got so bad she developed a chronic bowel infection.
Now after legal wrangles, Butlins has accepted responsibilty for the mix-up.
Speaking at home with her seven-year-old son Mason, the former community centre cook told how the longed-for mini-break turned into holiday hell.
“This was our seventh trip to Butlins and we really love it there – it’s always been wonderful,” she said.
“I’m unable to work because of my condition and am on sickness benefit, but managed to pay for myself, two adults and four children to go on a long weekend break. My sister, Gemma, came with her kids and although the weather was awful we had a great time until the Saturday night meal.”
Clare had taken her own gluten-free bread – which she gets on prescription – special breakfast cereal and even gluten-free custard to go with her Tesco’s “Free From” chocolate muffins.
And it was the custard which led to the problems.
“The staff in the restaurant were really understanding and happy to prepare food specially for me,” Clare said.
“On the second night they mucked up the custard for my muffins. It was like yellow wallpaper paste, so they were both ruined. I was told by staff they were sorry and that they had gone out and bought me a replacement gluten-free muffin from the resort shop.
“I knew it wasn’t one of mine as my muffins are small and look like plain chocolate buns, but this one was bigger and had chocolate chunks on top. But I was assured it was gluten-free.”
From the moment the sickness struck, Claire dared not leave her apartment and then had to endure a six-hour coach trip home. When she got home she went to see her GP.
Five days of agony only ended after she was given a course of strong antibiotics to combat a severe bowel infection which was causing bleeding.
When she wrote to Butlins at Skegness to complain, she received a brief letter offering her compensation for the value of the food she had eaten – £28 – and an upgrade on any future holiday.
“I was very annoyed by their attitude and contacted the Citizens’ Advice Bureau which told me to write to Butlins head office,” she said.
“That led to a rather high-handed reply which offered my £100 as a gesture of goodwill in final settlement, and I wasn’t happy with that.”
Now, after she employed a solicitor’s help, Butlins has accepted responsibility and medical reports are being made before a settlement will be agreed.
In a letter to Clare, Julie Wright, of Bourne Leisure Limited, says: “We confirm that we will not be disputing liability in this matter.”