Mass Food Poisoning Among Church Congregation Kills One, Leaves Dozens Ill

A chef has been sentenced to four months in prison after the food he served to a church congregation led to one woman dying and another 31 people suffering from food poisoning.

John Croucher was the head chef at the Crew Arms pub in the village of Hinton-in-the-Hedges in Northamptonshire, England. The pub was holding a church harvest supper for 35 people where the meal served was shepherd’s pie, a traditional British dish comprised of cooked minced meat topped with mashed potato.

Elizabeth Neuman, aged 92, repeatedly vomited after eating the pie and subsequently died of a gastrointestinal hemorrhage, induced from vomiting. 31 other people became “unpleasantly ill” while three people avoided the pie due to being vegetarians.

Croucher admitted to a charge of contravening food regulations and was given a four-month jail sentence, suspended for 12 months.

Defending himself in court, Croucher said: “I hate to say it, I really hate to say it, but I think I was rushed. I was rushing.”

He continued: “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.”

Judge Sarah Campbell said: “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 hemorrhage induced from vomiting. No sentence I pass can reflect the loss caused to the family.”

The judge also highlighted the details that resulted in the death of Neuman. She also argued the pub should have taken greater care to ensure that food safety standards were at there highest.

She said: “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.”

Regarding the pub’s overall reputation and record she said: “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 a one star.”

shepherd's pie
stock image of a shepherd’s pie. Chef John Croucher ended up killing one woman and 31 other people suffering food poisoning with a poorly cooked shepherd’s pie.
Getty Images

Since the incident, the pub has gained the maximum score of five stars on hygiene but at the time of tragedy only had one star. Prosecutor Carl May-Smith highlighted that food safety officers were prepared to and were offering help to venues with low ratings.

He said: “The pub even had the advantage of coaching from the local authority. Inspections before the offense showed there was no food safety management system in place.”

The Holy Trinity Church, for whom the harvest was for, did not want retribution against the pub or its landlord, Neil Billingham or Croucher, who is no longer employed there, the court was told.