A court fined a caterer after more than 50 guests were struck down by food poisoning following a wedding in Staffordshire, England.

This past week Cannock Magistrates’ Court sentenced The Galloping Gourmet (Coulsdon) Ltd. after the company pleaded guilty to two food safety breaches two years ago in relation to the outbreak. The breaches included placing unfit food on the market and failing to follow their own food safety procedures.

The case involved four court hearings and was adjourned a number of times. The court heard how 58 people contracted Salmonella infections after eating food served at a wedding reception in October 2017 at the former Packington Moor in Staffordshire.

Salmonella from undercooked hog roast

The district judge ordered The Galloping Gourmet (Coulsdon) Ltd. to pay a penalty of £200,000, court costs of £49,936 and a £170 surcharge – a total of £250,106 ($324,800).

Following an investigation by Lichfield District Council’s food safety team, the cause of the outbreak was identified as Salmonella Typhimurium from an undercooked hog roast served at the evening wedding reception.

Phil Kemp was forced to cancel his honeymoon to the Dominican Republic with new wife Vikki after he became ill a day after the wedding reception. He instructed public health lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate his illness.

Irwin Mitchell’s public health team represented 25 people who fell ill and secured an admission of civil liability from Galloping Gourmet (Coulsden) Ltd.

Phil, an IT operations technician, said his illness got to the point where he had to go to a local walk-in center where testing showed he had a Salmonella infection.

“My illness lasted around 10 days all in all, but the symptoms were so bad that we had no option but to cancel our honeymoon to the Dominican Republic. I was totally devastated and we never got any money back from the tour operator or insurer in relation to it,” he said.

The 37 year old said the prosecution was welcomed and he hoped caterers pay attention to and learn from the outcome.

“No one should have to go through what we have, especially in relation to their wedding day – it is just not acceptable. Sadly a lot of the memories about what should have been the happiest day of mine and Vikki’s lives are spoilt by what happened. Nothing will change what has happened, but we now just hope these issues will never happen again.”

Other affected guests have gone on to suffer issues including irritable bowel syndrome and psychological conditions.

Jatinder Paul, senior associate solicitor at Irwin Mitchell, said the case puts a spotlight on the impact health and hygiene failings can have on those affected.

“Phil and many of our other clients are continuing to suffer with health issues as a result of what happened two years ago. It is particularly devastating for those involved that the problems emerged on what was meant to be a memorable and very special day.

“While we have been able to secure an admission from the caterer involved, we have been waiting on the outcome of this prosecution. We will now be working with the caterers to promptly resolve these civil cases on behalf of our clients.”

Council investigation

The council’s investigation included interviews with the newlyweds, most of their guests, the wedding photographer, other people affected, and 20 staff who had worked on the day.

The team also took six food samples, but no leftover hog roast was available. However, the national Salmonella reference laboratory was able to isolate genetically identical bacteria from 20 samples provided by some victims of the food poisoning, proving they were linked to eating food from a point of source, which helped identify the suspect food.

Fifty two wedding guests, the groom, two people who had not been at the wedding but who ate food served at the event, and three employees fell ill shortly after the wedding. Symptoms included nausea, stomach cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, and fatigue with three people needing hospital treatment.

Councilor Angela Lax, from Lichfield District Council, said the case shows that good food safety procedures must always be at the heart of every food business.

“The Galloping Gourmet (Coulsdon) Ltd. did not take their customers’ health and safety seriously enough and they now face a large fine and costs. The level of the penalty shows how serious a case this is, and it sends a warning to others in the catering industry to make sure they always follow food safety guidelines.

“This has been a huge case to investigate, involving more than 80 people, which among others included Public Health England, a consultant in communicable disease, the Food Standards Agency, the Meat Hygiene Service, Defra and other local authorities. We are all pleased with this successful prosecution and the level of the penalty, and hope it will drive up food safety standards across the industry.”

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