U.K. chef to serve a four-month sentence after his shepherd's pie leaves one dead, 31 sick

A U.K. chef has been served a four-month suspended jail sentence after his own servings of shepherd’s pie to a church congregation left one woman dead and 31 others with food poisoning.

U.K. chef to serve a four-month sentence after his shepherd's pie leaves one dead, 31 sick
© Provided by National Post An uncooked shepherd’s pie left one woman dead, 31 others with food poisoning in a U.K. village.

John Croucher, the former head chef at the Crewe Arms in the Northamptonshire village of Hinton-in-the-Hedges, plead guilty to a charge of contravening food regulations. His jail sentence has been suspended for 12 months.

“I hate to say it, I really hate to say it, but I think I was rushed. I was rushing,” the 40-year-old cook said.

The incident occurred on Oct. 8, 2018, when 35 villagers visited the Crewe Arms for a harvest meal, according to the judge Sarah Campbell.

Thirty-two people ate the pie.

The victim, 92-year-old Elizabeth Neuman died from gastrointestinal haemorrhae, induced by vomiting, while the rest became “unpleasantly ill”.


Video: This shepherd’s pie recipe is perfect for fall (TODAY)

The remaining three only escaped harm because they were vegetarians. 

Campbell ruled that the mince meat, used to prepare the shepherd’s pie had not been cooked properly and had been placed into a pan with ice water. Croucher had needed to leave, so he wrapped the mince in cling film and left it in the fridge overnight. The next day, he cooked it again and added warm mashed potato.

“He didn’t take the temperature when it was served,” Campbell ruled.

Despite the tragedy, the court was told that members of the church congregation were not looking for retribution against the pub, its landlord Neil Bilingham, or Croucher.

They called the incident a “one-off mistake,” Campbell said, “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 a one star.”

Christopher Hopkins, who defended the pub and its landlord, stated that Bilingham had immediately reached out to residents affected by the incident to apologize. “He also asks me to express his condolences to the Neuman family on his behalf.”

Billingham admitted to three charges of contravening food regulations and was fined £9,000 (CAD $15,000) and ordered to pay £1,000 (CAD $1,690) court costs. His company was fined almost £3,000 (CAD $2,197).

Croucher called his own remorse “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,” he told the court.

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