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Fatal Food Poisoning Incident in UK Results in Prison

February 18, 2015

Both the chef and manager of a local pub in Essex have been sentenced to jail time totalling thirty months after a Christmas dinner served at their restaurant left a mother with a fatal dose of food poisoning.

The mother, Della Callagher, aged 46, died approximately two days after she consumed the four-course meal prepared at the Hornchurch Railway Hotel in December 2012. Thirty-three other customers experienced illness as a result of the same poisoning.

The manager of the Railway Hotel, Ann-Marie McSweeney, and the chef, Mehmet Kaya, were convicted for falsifying records and lying to the police following the incident. As a result, McSweeney received an eighteen month sentence behind bars, and Kaya received 12 months. The company that own the pub, Mitchells & Butlers, were fined £1.5 million (around $2.3 million) for the act of “placing unsafe food on the market”.

Covering up the act

The Snaresbrook Crown Court in East London discovered that the manager and chef phad deliberately forged kitchen records and covered up evidence to make it seem as though they had followed the correct food safety procedures for reheating food. They also actively hindered health inspectors by disposing of food samples.

Preparing poison

According to records, guests at the pub paid a total of £39.95 each for a meal which had been cooked the previous day, and reheated on the day of consumption. The meat had not been allowed to cool properly before storage and was not prepared to be reheated according to food safety standards. As a result, the diners were infected by a potentially deadly type of food poisoning known as Clostridium perfringens, which often takes place when poultry or red meat is not properly prepared.

According to a professional from the Health Protection Agency, Dr Deborah Turbitt, “Clostridium perfringens bacteria are the third most common cause of food poisoning in the UK.”

Generally, infected individuals start to feel unwell about twelve hours after eating the contaminated food. Most often, symptoms include abdominal cramps and diarrhoea. According to experts, the illness usually only lasts for a couple of days, however high-risk groups such as the elderly and very young children can be affected more seriously.

Dedication to food safety

A spokeswoman for the chain, Mitchells and Butlers, told authorities and media that “food safety is our highest priority.” They claimed that the food safety procedures in place would have prevented the catastrophe if all employees had followed them. The court agreed with this assessment, however the chain has still conducted an assessment of their procedures, policies and training following the incident to identify any further problems.