A former chef of a pub in England has been given a four-month suspended jail sentence in connection with an incident that killed one person and sickened more than 30 in 2018.

John Croucher, the former head chef at the Crewe Arms in Northamptonshire, was sentenced this past week at Reading Crown Court after admitting contravening food regulations.

Croucher pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to placing unsafe food on the market. He was ordered to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work in the community and pay costs of £4,000 ($5,300).

Elizabeth Neuman, who was in her 90s, died after eating the shepherd’s pie in October 2018 while 31 other people reported food poisoning symptoms after falling sick from Clostridium perfringens. Shepherd’s pie is a dish containing ground meat and mashed potatoes.

Neil Bellingham, the pub owner, and landlord admitted to three charges of contravening food regulations. He was fined £9,000 ($12,000) and must pay £1,000 ($1,300) in court costs.

The Bobcat Pub Company was fined almost £3,000 ($4,000) for not registering a food premise, failure to implement and maintain a food safety management system, not providing staff with supervision, instruction or training, and placing unsafe food on the market.

How the incident unfolded
Croucher told the court he had been rushing at the time of the incident.

“I really hate to say it, but I think I was rushed. I was rushing. This is something I will never forget. Because of it, I am a better chef and it is just a shame the cost of it had to be what it was,” he said, according to media reports.

The court heard that the ground meat in the shepherd’s pie was not cooked properly the previous night before being put in the refrigerator. The next day it was cooked again with mashed potatoes but the meat temperature wasn’t checked. Poor cooking, cooling and reheating of various ingredients led to the dish becoming contaminated with Clostridium perfringens.

The day after the event, West Northamptonshire Council received a call from the event organizer to report people had been taken ill with severe stomach cramps and diarrhea.

An investigation by environmental health officers from the council and Public Health England (now the UK Health Security Agency) found numerous food hygiene offenses that led to the prosecution.

The outlet now has a five-star food hygiene rating but in 2017 it was one star, meaning major improvement was necessary.

“This is an incredibly sad and tragic case which demonstrates the serious consequences of failing to follow food safety regulations, and I commend the officers whose detailed investigation helped to bring these individuals to justice in the interests of public safety,” said David Smith, from the council.

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