M&B fined £1.5m after Christmas Day food poisoning prosecution

By Ellie Bothwell contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food safety, Mitchells & butlers

M&B said it conducted 'a detailed assessment' of its policies, procedures and training since the incident
M&B said it conducted 'a detailed assessment' of its policies, procedures and training since the incident
Managed pub operator Mitchells and Butlers (M&B) has been fined £1.5m following its conviction of a food hygiene offence which led to the death of a customer.

Della Callagher died and more than 30 other diners became seriously ill​ after eating Christmas lunch at Ember Inns pub the Railway Hotel in Hornchurch, Essex on Christmas Day 2012.

The pub’s manager Anne-Marie McSweeney and chef Mehmet Kaya have both been given custodial sentences of one and a half years and one year respectively after they were found guilty of perverting the course of justice for falsifying food safety records after the outbreak.

M&B was found guilty of placing unsafe food, namely turkey meat, on the market by not ensuring food hygiene rules were followed.

Prosecutors said the food was not allowed to cool when it was first cooked and then not properly reheated, creating a “perfect breeding ground” for clostridium bacteria.

McSweeney and Kaya disposed of all the waste food, preventing health inspectors from taking samples, and forged kitchen records after the outbreak, Snaresbrook Crown Court heard.

According to reports, checks on other Ember Inns pubs in the area showed that food safety standards were not enforced by the pubco.

'Thorough investigation'

A spokeswoman for Mitchells & Butlers said: “Mitchells & Butlers notes the sentence issued by the Court today.

“We deeply regret this matter and have taken it extremely seriously. 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 today’s outcome. We have continued to co-operate fully with the local authority throughout this process.  

“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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Food Hygiene Ratings

Posted by Mike Coleman,

It is not mandatory in England - unlike anywhere else in the UK - to display food hygiene ratings. This is disgraceful!

I have no idea whether this is relevant in this particular case but too many very grim premises are open for business this lunch time and this evening and customers haven't a clue....

Sign up: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/66339 unless of course you run one of those 'grim' premises in which case, keep clear and hope that you can get away with it for as long as possible.

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Adequate Staffing Levels?

Posted by John P. Graham,

Clearly this terrible situation should never have happened but this news article makes no mention of adequate staffing levels.

Whilst M&B say they have "conducted a detailed assessment of our policies, procedures and training etc", nonetheless this can't be the bee all and end all of proper kitchen management and food care.

We all know that catering, especially on large sites such as pubs can present a very high-pressured environment and it's not unusual for organisations such as M&B to keep staffing levels as low as possible in order to contain costs aand to achieve as high as possible operating profits.

Not only in the hospitality business, but in other trades as well, when staffing levels set by senior management, (many people of such status are not, nor may never have had "hands-on" experience at the coalface but dictate policy from the comfort of head office) are inadequate for the jobs in hand it's a natural but obviously wrong culture for ataff on sites to cut corners leading to lack of best practice.

I hope that, during M&B's internal investigation, they now seriously reflect on staffing levels, adequate monitoring and compliance since had all appropriate compliance and preventative measures been in place at this pub then this tragic situation would not have occurred in the first place.

John P. Graham
Hampstead Village NW3

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Posted by Dave Daly,

What tragedy for the victims.
Over booking Xmas group bookings in kitchens and labour bugets that can't handle handle it ,is a big fact in kitchen managers and managers cutting corners
Staff hour should be avalable on the day to stop pre heating of food £50 a place should ensure good staffing levels
There would be change if an ops manager or a bdm had been jailed
We as a group (Licencee UNITE) do not condone members bracking the law
We all have to learn from this and move on from this tragedy.

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