Pub manager fined after food poisoning death

A food business operator and the manager of a public house in Cornwall has been fined following the death of an elderly lady.

Truro Crown Court fined Lake Inns and Leisure Limited £20,000 and Diane Elizabeth Burrow £750 for selling lamb that was unfit for consumption. In addition, the food business operator was ordered to pay costs of £23,836.09.

In August of 2015, the Pathologist for Royal Cornwall Hospital Truro informed Cornwall Council Environmental Health Officers about the death of an elderly woman who experienced symptons of food poisoning, which contributed towards her death.
Christine Morgan, from Camborne, had eaten at the Clock and Key Public House in Trispen shortly before she fell ill, an investigation by Cornwall Council Public Protection found. Somebody else she was dining with also experienced symptoms, but made a full recovery.

A quantity of lamb was taken from the public house and sent for analysis. Results confirmed that the meat tested positive for clostridium perfringens - a type of food poisoning bacteria. The same bacteria was found in stool samples and the public health laboratory discovered DNA matches for the bug in all the samples.

It was revealed that Burrow prepared the lamb on the weekend and, after being microwaved by an unsupervised member of staff, was served the following Tuesday. Mistakes were made in the food handling processes, and there were doubts around the adequacy of the cooling of the meat joint and reheating. There was no documented training evidence for the staff member that served the meal on the day.

The court heard that Lake Inns and Leisure has previously employed the services of a food hygiene consultant, but failed to act promptly upon the given advice.

Whilst both Lake Inns and Leisure Limited and Burrow pleaded guilty to service of unfit food on the 25 January 2017 at Truro Crown Court, they denied the failure to ensure systems were in place for managing food safety. This charge has been allowed to lay on file.

“There is no doubt that the source of the pathogen was the food, there were clearly systematic failures in circumstances when food safety had just been allowed to drift along rather than be properly emphasised withn the business,” said HHJ Carr in sentencing.

“This is one of those cases where there were systems in place, sat in brightly coloured folders on the shelf, but not being properly implemented.”

Timothy Bage, Cornwall Council’s senior environmental health officer said after the hearing: “This is a tragic case in which a man lost his wife; a couple have lost their livelihood and the pub company its reputation. I would like to thank the family for their assistance with the investigation at what was a very difficult time for them. And I would like to thank Public Health England for the laboratory and expert support they provided to the council.

“There are key hygiene messages here which encapsulate the failings of the food business operators,” he added. “We urge food business operators to treat boned and rolled joints differently than whole meat joints, we encourage them to cool quickly and thoroughly using active cooling techniques, and we want them to reheat the food properly.

“When our inspectors visit they are here to help, so listen to the advice that they are providing and act upon them, this was a wholly avoidable death.”

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