Thursday, 27 October 2016

An unhappy 250th anniversary for Shepherd Neame

What could be more natural than to celebrate a 250th anniversary with a Party? Which is what Shepherd Neame did back in 1948.

They invited around 1,000 employees and landlords to a posh meal in London. Unfortunately many guests became sick and two even died. That’s a good way to put a downer on a party.

One of two women who died after an anniversary celebration in the West End of London was suffering from food poisoning.

The other, according to a pathologist at the inquest at Faversham yesterday, died from cerebral haemorrhage.

A verdict of natural causes was recorded both women — Mrs Frances L. Harris (40), Makenade Avenue, Faversham, and Mrs Daisy Winifred Smith (59), Stone Street.

The pathologist, Dr H. B. Morris, said an examination of Mrs Harris failed to show any pathological organism.

The death of Mrs Smith was due to pulmonary septicaemia caused by bacilli infection of one of the food poisoning groups.

The most usual cause of outbreak of this form was carrier — someone who carried the organisms and affected the food.

The bacilli would be more likely to affect food like milk and eggs, especially if they were left standing, which would give a chance for organisms to grow.

Ice-cream could carry the organisms.

It was stated the party was to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Neame's Brewery, Faversham, on August 28. Over 1000 employees and licensee tenants attended.

A number complained of vomiting and pains, and several were treated in hospital.

Mrs Minnie E. L. Ball, sister-in-law of Mrs Smith, said Mrs Smith first complained of illness on August 31.

At the lunch at the Lyceum Restaurant Mrs Smith had grapefruit, breast of chicken, mayonnaise, meringue and coffee. She had to be careful what she ate because of duodenal ulcers.

She omitted the Russian salad and ice-cream. She did not have tea.

"I had the same things to cat and more, and felt no ill effects," said Mrs Ball. None of the other 20 people at their table was taken ill.

Dr A. Mories said Mrs Smith's general health was not very good. Four months ago she was X-rayed and put on a diet.

Dr W. H. Crighton, medical officer of health for Faversham, said that apart from the cases of which he had been notified he had heard of cases in Woolwich, Whitstable, Sittingbourne and other places. Of the 47 cases notified to him 42 were in Faversham.

Replying to Mr Marven Everett, representing the Lyceum (the old Lyceum Theatre, now a restaurant), he said inquiries showed there had been no joint celebration Faversham people at any one place. Some had coffee or tea after the theatre, but more as individuals. All the food had been traced to its source and investigations were still proceeding.

The Coroner said food poisoning came under the heading of natural causes. It would be most unfair to assume any particular person was responsible.

Everett said that as far as the caterers were concerned everything was of the best and the greatest care was taken.

Mr Wix, representing Shepherd Neame's Brewery, said the directors much regretted that the unhappy event should have occurred soon after the celebration that had been organised to give the guests pleasure.”
Dundee Courier - Saturday 18 September 1948, page 3.

I’m not so sure the caterer would be given so easy a ride nowadays if they made dozens ill and even killed one. I suspect they’d have been in trouble with the health inspectors. Saying no-one was to blame seems like a huge dodging of responsibility.

As for the source of the bacteria, I’d go for the chicken or the mayonnaise.

The irony is that it wasn’t really the 250th anniversary of the brewery. When I was in Faversham last month they told me that research by their archivist has pushed the date back a century or so.

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