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EHOs investigate pub food death

Stuart Spear08/03/2017 - 16:28

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The Clock and Key under new management
The Clock and Key under new management

Cornwall Council has prosecuted a local pub after being contacted by a pathologist following the death of an elderly woman.

In August 2015 EHOs were contacted by Royal Cornwall Hospital Truro following the death of Christine Morgan from Camborne who had suffered the symptoms of food poisoning, which the pathologist concluded had contributed to her death.

Investigating EHOs found that Mrs Morgan had eaten at the Clock and Key public house in Trispen shortly before falling ill and that a relative in her dinning party had also become ill before making a recovery.

  The investigation centred on the pub that was owned by the local pub chain, Lake Inns and Leisure. A quantity of lamb was taken away for analysis and was found positive for Clostridium Perfringens. The Public Health Laboratory found a DNA match between the bacteria found on the lamb and stool samples that had been taken during the investigation.

 ‘A feature of this case is that Clostridium Perfinges takes effect quickly so it meant a quick post mortem and report being sent to us so we were able to go back to the pub and find the food in good time to send it for analysis and so get a genetic match for both people who fell ill,’ explains Timothy Bage, Cornwall Council senior EHO.

Diners had been served a roast lamb dinner with the lamb having been prepared at the weekend by the pub manager Diane Elizabeth Burrow. The lamb was then served to the diners on the following Tuesday to the diners after being reheated in a microwave by an unsupervised member of staff.

Mistakes had been made in the food handling processes and doubts were cast around the adequacy of the cooling of the meat joint and subsequent reheating. EHOs also found there was no evidence that the staff member who had served the food on the day had received any documented training.

‘The main stay of this pub was selling roasts and their safe methods and Safer Food Better Business was not properly considered for a pub that did so many roast meals. The business could not prove that the individual responsible for re-heating the meal had been properly trained, ’ points out Mr Bage.

The court was told that Lake Inns and Leisure had previously employed a food hygiene consultant, but had failed to act promptly upon the advice given.

Lake Inns and Leisure and Ms Burrow both pleaded guilty to serving unfit food at Truro Crown Court, but denied that they failed to ensure safe systems were in place for managing food safety, a charge that has been allowed to lay on file.

 The company and Ms Burrow were fined £20,000 and £750 respectively. The company was ordered to pay costs of £23,836. The turnover for Lake Inns and Leisure fell below the £2m threshold, making it a micro business.

In sentencing Judge Carr said: ‘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 within the business. ‘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.’

Reflecting on the impact of a death on investigating officers Mr Bage said: ‘We don’t deal with deaths very often and so I am going to get the local police family liason officer to talk to us because we are not always equipped to deal with a death in terms of our own emotional reactions and dealing with grieving relatives.’

According to FSA figures Clostridium Perfringens is the second most common foodborne pathogen after Campylobacter in the UK. 

While it is generally thought to result in a mild self-limiting illness it has resulted in a number of high profile deaths. One case involved the death of Della Callagher, 46, after eating a Christmas lunch at the Railway Hotel in Hornchurch, east London.

The case resulted in prison sentences for two chefs and a £1.5m fine for Mitchells and Butlers, the chain that owned the pub.

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