A Burntwood groom left “devastated” when he and dozens of his guests developed food poisoning after his wedding has called for lessons to be learned from the incident.
Catering firm The Galloping Gourmet (Coulsdon) Ltd was fined £200,000 and ordered to pay £50,000 costs after pleading guilty to two health and hygiene offences at Cannock Magistrates’ Court.
The court heard how the company had provided a hog roast which was contaminated with salmonella, leaving 58 people ill including groom Phil Kemp.
The 37-year-old and new wife Vikki were forced to cancel their honeymoon to the Dominican Republic after he developed serious gastric illness symptoms including nausea, diarrhoea and abdominal pains just a day after their wedding reception in October 2017.
Phil, an IT operations technician, said: “The wedding had been a really fantastic day and everyone had enjoyed it so much, but I couldn’t believe it when I started to feel unwell.
“It got to the point where I had to go to a local walk-in centre and after tests I was told I had salmonella – I just couldn’t believe it.
“My illness lasted around 10 days all in all, but the symptoms were so bad that we had no option but to cancel our honeymoon to the Dominican Republic.
“I was totally devastated and we never got any money back from the tour operator or insurer in relation to it.
“We did go away eventually, but this was obviously an extra cost on top of everything we had already paid. It was heartbreaking.”
After falling ill, Phil took on specialist lawyers at Irwin Mitchell who began to investigate the incident.
The legal team, which represents 25 of those who fell ill, secured an admission of civil liability from the catering firm, while Lichfield District Council launched a criminal prosecution.
Jatinder Paul, senior associate solicitor from Irwin Mitchell, said: “This is yet another terrible case which puts a spotlight on the huge impact that health and hygiene failings can have on those affected.
“Phil and many of our other clients are continuing to suffer with health issues as a result of what happened two years ago.
“It is particularly devastating for those involved that the problems emerged on what was meant to be a memorable and very special day.
“The effect of what happened to Phil ensured that his and Vikki’s first few days of newlyweds, when they should have been enjoying their honeymoon, were ruined.
“While we have been able to secure an admission from the caterer involved, we have been waiting on the outcome of this prosecution. We will now be working with the caterers to promptly resolve these civil cases on behalf of our clients.
“It is also vital that this case acts as a warning of the dangers of catering companies selling food unfit for consumption and reinforces the need for firms to uphold the highest hygiene standards at all times.”
“No one should have to go through what we have”
Other guests affected by the illness problems have gone on to suffer issues including irritable bowel syndrome.
Groom Phil added: “News of today’s prosecution is very welcome and I hope that it is an outcome that caterers across the country pay attention to and learn from.
“No one should have to go through what we have, especially in relation to their wedding day – it is just not acceptable.
“Sadly a lot of the memories about what should have been the happiest day of mine and Vikki’s lives are spoilt by what happened.
“Nothing will change what has happened, but we now just hope these issues will never happen again.”
A spokesperson for Galloping Gourmet said: “We can’t express how sorry we are for the distress and discomfort this incident caused.
“Food safety is a responsibility we take extremely seriously. Our priority is to serve safe, tasty and well-presented food and drink to our customers, but on this isolated occasion, our food safety procedures were not followed correctly.
“We have investigated the incident thoroughly and made a significant investment in technology to improve our procedures and minimise the possibility for individual human error.
“Since we started out in 1990, we have served well over a million people and we’ve never had a problem like this before. However, we have accepted full responsibility today and we are confident that the changes we’ve made will help ensure that this never happens again.”