Mitchells & Butler could be slapped with a huge fine after a woman died from eating unsafe food at one of its pubs in Essex.
Della Callagher died and 32 other diners became seriously ill after a Christmas lunch at The Railway hotel in Hornchurch in 2012.
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”.
The chain admitted selling food unfit for human consumption but argued it took reasonable precautions to prevent the offence.
However, a jury at Snaresbrook Crown Court found it guilty of placing unsafe food on the market by failing to ensure food hygiene rules were followed.
The court heard that checks on seven pubs operated by the chain in East London and Essex revealed that food safety standards were not enforced by the parent company.
Mitchells & Butler operates more than 1,700 restaurants and pubs around the UK, including the popular All Bar One and O’Neill’s chains.
A spokesperson for Birmingham based Mitchells & Butlers was quoted as saying that the company “respects the court’s decision”.
“We have taken this matter extremely seriously, and have co-operated fully with the local authority throughout their investigations. Food safety is our highest priority and our employees are required to adhere to these stringent procedures at all times. Our thoughts remain with the Callagher family during this difficult time.”
Meanwhile, The Railway hotel’s landlady Ann McSweeney, 40, and chef Mehmet Kaya, 37 could be handed a prison sentence after they were found guilty of perverting the course of justice.
The court heard that the pair disposed of all the waste food, preventing health inspectors from taking samples. They were also found guilty of forging kitchen records.
Sentences for the company and the two individuals are expected to be handed down on January 8.