By Claire Gordon • 02 December 2021 • 18:49
A harvest supper organised by a church group ended in tragedy when a “rushing” cook contravened food standards and a parishioner died. More than 30 other members of the congregation suffered food poisoning in the incident that saw the chef sentenced.
Elizabeth Neuman, 92, suffered repeated bouts of vomiting after eating the shepherd’s pie that had been made with incorrectly stored mince. The other parishioners became “unpleasantly ill”, with three of the people attending only escaping sickness as they were vegetarians.
John Croucher, the cook who was at the time the head chef at the Crewe Arms, was given a four-month jail sentence, suspended for 12 months after admitting the charge of contravening food regulations. Croucher, 40, defended himself in court but said: “I hate to say it, I really hate to say it, but I think I was rushed. I was rushing.”
He added: “Remorse is an understatement. 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, Sarah Campbell, said as she saw the chef sentenced: “On 8 October 2018, 35 villagers went to the Crewe Arms for a harvest meal. Thirty-two people ate the shepherd’s pie. A healthy and well person died of a gastrointestinal haemorrhage induced from vomiting. No sentence I pass can reflect the loss caused to the family.
“Croucher was the chef that night. The mince was not cooked properly and was placed into a pan with iced water. Croucher needed to leave, so put the mince in cling film and put it in the fridge overnight. Having left it, he cooked it again and added warm mashed potato. He did not take the temperature when it was served.”
The judge raised concerns about the pub’s record, saying: “The Crewe Arms is an important pub to the local community. I have read many references from members of the community. They have all said that this was a one-off mistake but looking at the evidence this 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 one star.”
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