A 92-year-old woman died after suffering food poisoning from the mishandled mince.
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Shepard's pie in a black baking dish
Credit: Getty Images

Adhering to health regulations can be a matter of life and death — and possibly a legal matter as well. A chef in England was recently given a four-month suspended jail sentence for preparing a shepherd's pie so bad that it literally killed someone.

John Croucher, the former head chef at the Crewe Arms in Hinton-in-the-Hedges (a village in the English county of Northamptonshire), admitted in court to a charge that he had contravened food regulations, according to The Guardian. "I hate to say it, I really hate to say it, but I think I was rushed. I was rushing," the now 40-year-old chef, a two-decade kitchen veteran, said of the incident which took place in 2018. "Remorse is an understatement. This is something I will never forget. Because of it, I am a better chef and it is just a shame the cost of it had to be what it was."

The accidentally-tainted pie was served as part of a church harvest dinner at the pub: Apparently, all 32 people who ate the dish suffered from food poisoning, including a 92-year-old woman who died of gastro-intestinal complications according to judge Sarah Cambell who presided over the case. An additional three congregation members avoided illness only because they were vegetarian.

"Croucher was the chef that night," Campbell was quoted as saying, explaining the events of the evening. "The mince was not cooked properly and was placed into a pan with iced water. Croucher needed to leave, so put the mince in cling film and put it in the fridge overnight. Having left it, he cooked it again and added warm mashed potato. He did not take the temperature when it was served."

Despite Croucher's claim that he was rushing, Campbell also pointed out that this "was not a one-off mistake." She continued, "The pub should have been taking steps to be improving. Inspections in 2015 gave it three stars and in 2017 gave it only one star."

Neil Billingham, the owner of the pub, also reportedly admitted to three charges of contravening food regulations and was fined about $12,000 as well as ordered to pay over $1,300 court costs, while his company was fined nearly another $4,000.