A chef has been given a four-month jail sentence after a shepherd's pie that he prepared for a church harvest supper in England led to the death of one person — a 92-year-old woman — and the illness of 31 others.
According to the Guardian, the meal was served to the congregation of the Holy Trinity Church in Hinton-in-the-Hedges, a village in the English county of Northamptonshire, at the Crewe Arms, a local pub, in 2018.
The head chef at the time, John Croucher, 40, admitted in court he was "rushing" while preparing the meal. "I hate to say it, I really hate to say it, but I think I was rushed," he said.
According to judge Sarah Campbell, who presided over the case, the meat in the shepherd's pie had been undercooked, left in a refrigerator overnight and then cooked again the following day. She added that Croucher also did not take the temperature of the meat before serving it.
As a result, 92-year-old Elizabeth Neuman repeatedly vomited after consuming the meal and died from a "gastrointestinal haemorrhage induced from vomiting," according to Campbell. Neuman had been "healthy and well" before eating the pie, according to Campbell's statement. The 31 other parishioners who consumed the pie suffered from food poisoning. Only three people who attended the meal did not fall ill, because they were vegetarians and did not eat the meat pie, reported the Guardian.
Croucher, who has worked in the food industry for over two decades, was charged with "contravening food regulations" and sentenced to four months in jail and given a suspension of 12 months. He no longer works at the pub, but said in a courtroom statement that he is now a "better chef" because of the "horrible, horrible" incident.
"Remorse is an understatement," Croucher said in court. "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."
The judge in the case also had concerns about the record of the pub itself. While members of the congregation who were sickened said that they didn't want retribution against the Crewe Arms, its owner or Croucher himself, Campbell said that there is "evidence" that the incident was "not a one-off mistake."
"The pub should have been taking steps to be improving. Inspections in 2015 gave it three stars and in 2017 gave it only a one star," Campbell said.
According to Newsweek, the pub's reputation has increased since then: It currently has a maximum score of five stars on hygiene.
The owner of the pub admitted to three charges of contravening food regulations and was fined £9,000 (about $12,000) and ordered to pay £1,000 (about $1,300) in court costs. His company was also fined almost £3,000 (about $4,000), according to the Guardian.