Northamptonshire pub chef receives suspended sentence

Food poisoning case shows consequences of failing to follow food safety regulations
05 January 2022 , Katie Coyne

A former pub chef has received a suspended prison sentence after numerous serious food safety failings caused one death and multiple cases of sickness.

Environmental Health (EH)  officers investigating a food poisoning case in Northamptonshire that tragically killed a 92-year-old-woman and made another 31 people ill, have been commended.

The case involving 40-year-old former pub chef, John Croucher who was given a four-month suspended prison sentence, has made national headlines.

Croucher prepared a shepherd’s pie for a church group celebrating harvest festival at the Crewe Arms pub in Hinton-in-the-Hedges near Brackley on 8th October, 2018. The following day, the event organisers alerted the council that a significant number of people from the group had become ill with severe stomach cramps and diarrhoea. Elizabeth Neuman was taken to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, and later died of a gastrointestinal haemorrhage.

An investigation carried out by EH officers at West Northamptonshire Council and Public Health England discovered a range of serious food safety failings and charges were brought against Croucher; the landlord, Neil John Bellingham; and the pub’s operator, Bobcat Pub Company.

Reading Crown Court heard how the shepherd’s pie was rushed, and there was poor cooking, cooling and reheating of various ingredients that led to it becoming contaminated with Clostridium perfringens bacteria.

In court, Croucher admitted: “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.”

“This is an incredibly sad and tragic case which demonstrates the serious consequences of failing to follow food safety regulations.” 

Cllr David Smith, portfolio holder for community safety and engagement, and regulatory services said: “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. 

“Our deepest condolences also go to the friends and family of the lady who sadly died.”

On 30 November, 2021 at Reading Crown Court, Croucher was sentenced to four months in prison, suspended for 12 months. At an earlier hearing he also pleaded guilty to placing unsafe food on the market, and was ordered to carry out 100 hours of unpaid community service, and pay costs of £4,000.

Bellingham, 54, of Northampton was fined £9,000 and ordered to pay £1,000 costs after admitting failing to register a food premises, failing to implement and maintain a food safety management system, and failing to provide staff with supervision, instruction or training.

Bobcat Pub Company was fined £2,928 after admitting failing to register a food premise, failing to implement and maintain a food safety management system, failing to provide staff with supervision, instruction or training, and placing unsafe food on the market.

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