Chinese restaurants in farm virus scare are awarded £20,000

Click to follow
The Independent Online

A group of Chinese restaurateurs in Newcastle upon Tyne who were initially blamed for the spread of foot-and-mouth disease were awarded £20,000 compensation yesterday for damage to their reputation.

A group of Chinese restaurateurs in Newcastle upon Tyne who were initially blamed for the spread of foot-and-mouth disease were awarded £20,000 compensation yesterday for damage to their reputation.

They were at the centre of unsubstantiated claims that this year's epidemic – first detected at a piggery eight miles west of the city – found its way there in the leftovers of contaminated meat sold in their restaurants, which then went to make pigswill. The allegations caused an estimated 40 per cent drop in their takings.

The community immediately announced its intent to hand much of the money to a public relations firm to promote its commercial assets rather than provide payouts to traders.

In anticipation of the money – part of a £5.5 million payout to the North-east channelled through the One NorthEast regional development agency – this weekend's Chinese moon festival will also be enhanced to promote the culture of the district, home to 10,000 Chinese. A dragon dance is expected at St James' Park football ground, where Newcastle play Liverpool on Sunday.

Clint Woo of Chinatown Traders' Association said yesterday: "We deserve [this] for the damage that was caused to our businesses by the unfounded rumours, which also caused threats and racist comments. Things have improved in the last few weeks. But there is still prejudice and people have got out of the habit of coming here."

The London-based Chinese Civil Rights Action Group claims average losses in the four weeks after the rumours were £1,100 a week in restaurants and £460 a week in takeaways – an alleged national loss to the Chinese catering industry of £24m, which it is claiming in compensation from the Government.

Newcastle traders accuse the old Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food of fuelling the rumours, for which the Environment Minister Michael Meacher subsequently made a public apology. The rumours first circulated in March, prompting one tabloid headline of "Sheep and Sour Source".

* The East Midlands was pronounced "foot and mouth free" yesterday by Government vets when Leicestershire was named the final county in the region to be rid of the disease.

Comments