In the case of Wood and Wood v TUI Travel Plc earlier this year, the Court of Appeal was asked to consider whether the provision of food and drink could be deemed to be a transfer of goods within the meaning of section 4 of the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1984.

The claimants had booked an all-inclusive holiday to the Dominican Republic when they contracted gastroenteritis after eating at the hotel’s buffet. They brought a claim under the Package Travel Regulations 1992 and the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1984.

At first instance, the court ruled that the food the guests consumed was not contaminated due to fault on the part of the hotel. The claim pursued under the Package Travel Regulations therefore failed. However the judge concluded that the food supplied by the hotel was below satisfactory quality and that consequently the tour operator was in breach of its statutory duty under the Supply of Goods and Services Act.

The tour operator appealed the decision, arguing that the package holiday contract was for the supply of services rather than the transfer of goods. The Court of Appeal disagreed and held that any person supplying food to a consumer will be strictly liable if the food is proven to be unfit for human consumption.

It will now be increasingly difficult for tour operators to defend these types of claims, provided the claimant has obtained persuasive expert and lay witness evidence to indicate the food was below the expected standard.