Fifty-eight people suffered food poisoning after eating the food that was served by Galloping Gourmet (Coulsdon) Ltd at a wedding reception at the former Packington Moor, in Staffordshire, in October 2017.
Cannock Magistrates Court heard that following an extensive investigation by Lichfield District Council's food safety team, the cause of the food poisoning outbreak was identified as salmonella typhimurium – originating from an undercooked hog roast served at the evening wedding reception.
The investigation included interviews with the newlyweds Phil and Vikki Kemp, most of their guests, the wedding photographer, other people affected and 20 staff who had worked on the day.
The team also took six food samples, but no leftover hog roast was available to sample. However, the national salmonella reference laboratory was able to isolate genetically identical bacteria from 20 samples provided by some of the victims of the food poisoning, proving they were linked to eating food from a point of source, which helped identify the suspect food, the court was told.
Magistrates heard that 52 wedding guests, together with the groom, two people who had not been at the wedding but who ate food served at the event, and three members of staff fell ill shortly after the wedding. Symptoms included nausea, stomach cramps, vomiting, diarrhoea and fatigue, and three people needed to seek hospital attention.
The newlyweds were unable to go on their honeymoon to the Dominican Republic due to how sick the groom was.
The Galloping Gourmet (Coulsdon) Ltd pleaded guilty to two food safety breaches, which included placing unfit food on the market and failing to follow their own food safety procedures. The case had four court hearings and was adjourned a number of times.
The company has since apologised for the "distress and discomfort" caused by the incident. They added that have made significant investment in technology to improve procedures and minimise human error.
They were sentenced on Friday, and the district judge ordered the company to pay a penalty of £200,000, court costs of £49,936 and a £170 surcharge.
Councillor Angela Lax, Lichfield District Council's cabinet member for legal and regulatory, said: "It does not matter how successful a company is, or its size, this case shows that good food safety procedures must always be at the heart of every food businesses.
“The Galloping Gourmet (Coulsdon) Ltd did not take their customers’ health and safety seriously enough and they now face a large fine and costs.
“We really sympathise with Mr and Mrs Kemp who had their wedding day ruined and missed out on their honeymoon due to dangerously undercooked food.
“The level of the penalty shows how serious a case this is, and it sends a warning to others in the catering industry to make sure they always follow food safety guidelines.
“This has been a huge case to investigate, involving more than 80 people, which among others included Public Health England, a Consultant in communicable disease, the Food Standards Agency, the Meat Hygiene Service, Defra and other local authorities. We are all pleased with this successful prosecution and the level of the penalty, and hope it will drive up food safety standards across the industry.”
A spokesman for Galloping Gourmet (Coulsdon) Ltd 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 and we are confident that the changes we’ve made will help ensure that this never happens again.”