Mitchells & Butlers fined £1.5m over food poisoning death

Pub operator, Mitchells & Butler, has been handed a £1.5m fine after being found guilty of a food hygiene offence which led to the death of a diner at the Railway Hotel in Hornchurch, Essex.

The chain was prosecuted for placing unsafe food (turkey meat) on the market by not ensuring food hygiene rules were followed at the Ember Inns-branded establishment.

Della Callagher died of food poisoning, with 32 other diners becoming seriously ill after Christmas Day lunch at the hotel in 2012.

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The £39.95 meal had been cooked the day before and reheated on a hotplate before being served.

Prosecutors claimed the food was not properly cooled initially, and then not heated sufficiently, creating what they called a “perfect breeding ground for the deadly Clostridium bacteria”.

Pub manager, Anne-Marie Mc Sweeney, and its chef, Mehmet Kaya, were given prison sentences of 18 months and one year, respectively. They were found guilty of perverting the course of justice by falsifying food safety records after the incident, as well as disposing of all the waste food, preventing health inspectors from taking samples.

Mitchells & Butlers stated: "As soon as we learnt of the incident, M&B conducted a full and thorough independent investigation and referred our findings to the London Borough of Havering immediately. This prompted further investigation by the local authority and ultimately led to this outcome.

"This case also relates to the conduct of two former employees who today received custodial sentences for perverting the course of justice. The individuals concerned had committed acts which were not in accordance with Mitchells & Butlers’ food safety procedures and practices.

“The conduct for which they have been found guilty, and have now been sentenced, was entirely their own actions and in no way represents conduct acceptable to, or condoned by, M&B.

"Food safety is our highest priority and we have robust due diligence procedures in place that all our employees are required to follow.

“The prosecution accepted that these procedures, if they had been properly followed by those involved at the time, would have prevented this terrible event but we have nevertheless conducted a detailed assessment of our policies, procedures and training since the incident to identify any possible improvements. We will continue to review our procedures to ensure they remain robust."

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