Club fined for poisoning wedding party

PUBLISHED: 09:00 31 December 2012

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A BRIDE and groom said they were 'extremely humiliated' after 46 guests were given food poisoning during their wedding reception at a golf club.

Undercooked pâté at Mendip Spring Golf Club caused dozens of diners to fall ill, with two suffering diarrhoea for up to 10 days while another was taken to hospital.

Yeo Finance Ltd, which runs the club, was fined £25,000 and its 53-year-old director Ian Harrison was handed a fine of £3,000 by magistrates at North Somerset Courthouse this week.

The guests were taken ill after eating a starter of duck liver pâté at the golf club’s restaurant on April 7.

The bride’s mother contacted North Somerset Council’s food hygiene department nine days after the wedding to alert the authority that more than half of the 86 guests had fallen ill.

Questionnaires were sent out to all those who attended and 46 of the 78 who replied said they had been ill.

The court was told one 79-year-old guest suffered diarrhoea for 10 days, others were off work for more than a week, and several suffered from headaches and stomach cramps.

A statement on behalf of the couple, who did not want to be named, was read aloud at court.

They said: “We feel utterly humiliated that everyone had to be contacted. It was extremely embarrassing to hear how people have been ill.

“Our special day wasn’t as special as we hoped, or Mendip Spring promised.

“Our guests and us will never forget this. Sadly no-one can change memories.”

The couple have received no compensation from the club, although they did not pay.

North Somerset Council food inspection teams visited the Congresbury golf club on April 18 and found a separate batch of pate was being served as a special.

Helen Blundell, prosecuting, said three samples were taken for analysis and were found to contain bacteria, which was ‘potentially injurious to health and unfit for human consumption’.

The court was told that chef Jamie Stockden had the minimum food hygiene qualifications but mandatory training for staff was not fully complied with.

Edward Lyons, defending, said the failure to have up-to-date training did not cause the food poisoning.

He said the chef had previously checked food temperatures before service, although was at a loss as to why the pâté was not checked ahead of the wedding.

He added: “The company unreservedly apologises to the bride and groom and the guests that were affected. It is the last thing Yeo Finance wanted to happen.”

Harrison, of Mendip Road, Yatton, had been the club manager for 15 years and there had been no previous problems with food hygiene.

The court was told he was fully compliant with North Somerset Council’s investigation after fellow director Ralph Richards had died.

Harrison pleaded guilty to three charges of contravening food hygiene regulations concerning staff training, failing to recognise food preparation hazards and for failing to prove they were compliant with recognising such hazards.

Yeo Finance Ltd admitted the same offences, plus two charges of serving unsafe food.

Chair of the bench, Noel Hector, said the severity of the offences and the humiliation to the bride and groom could not be ignored.

He sentenced Yeo Finance Ltd, of Regent Street, Kingswood, to pay £29,337.50 including fines, costs and victim surcharge. Harrison will have to pay £3,515 in total.

Mr Stockden, who joined the company three months prior to the wedding, has since been replaced and the club passed a follow-up inspection in early September.

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