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Chef Sentenced to 4 Months for 'Rushed' Shepherd's Pie

John Croucher's 2018 meal served to church congregation sickened dozens, killed one
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 3, 2021 9:03 AM CST
Updated Dec 5, 2021 3:20 PM CST
Man Whose Meal Killed 1: I'm a Better Chef Now
Stock photo of a shepherd's pie.   (Getty Images/Paul_Brighton)

(Newser) – John Croucher served up a shepherd's pie in 2018 that ended up giving 32 people food poisoning, including one woman who died. Now, the former head chef at a UK country pub has been sentenced to four months in prison, with a year's suspension, after conceding that he'd circumvented food safety protocols to save time. "I hate to say it, I really hate to say it, but I think I was rushed," the 40-year-old said of the harvest meal he prepared at the Crewe Arms pub in Hinton-in-the-Hedges for a church congregation, per the Guardian. "I was rushing."

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In Reading Crown Court on Thursday, Judge Sarah Campbell outlined exactly how Croucher rushed through the pie's preparation, noting "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." He came back to cook it and mix it with the mashed potatoes but didn't bother checking its temperature before serving it, she said. Thirty-one parishioners became "unpleasantly ill" after eating the pie, the court heard, while 92-year-old Elizabeth Neuman became violently ill and died. Three vegetarian congregants who'd declined to partake were fine.

Croucher, who the Independent notes represented himself in the case, told the court he'd been cooking professionally for 20 years. He also noted that, despite the "horrible, horrible circumstance," he's learned a lot from the incident. "Remorse is an understatement," he said. "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."

Although the church congregants have expressed they don't want retribution for the incident, per Newsweek, the landlord of the pub is also facing consequences for the deadly meal: Neil Billingham was personally hit with a nearly $12,000 fine after admitting to contravening food regulations, as well as ordered to pay more than $1,300 in court costs. His company received an almost $4,000 penalty as well. (Read more food safety stories.)

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