Bride, groom and 49 guests laid low with food poisoning after eating pate starter in four-star hotel

'We asked the staff twice to check it was fit for consumption and they assured us it was'

Nearly half the guests of a wedding party - including the bride and groom - came down with food poisoning after eating the chicken liver pate starter served up in a four-star hotel.

Nicola Hamill, 29, and her husband Alex, 32, paid £16,000 for their big day at Letchworth Hall Hotel in Hertfordshire, where guests tucked into a starter of chicken liver pate at the wedding breakfast.

The couple fell ill and spent most of their honeymoon in Las Vegas confined to their hotel room, spending $150 on water from the hotel minibar.

But they were horrified when they returned home to discover that 49 of their 118 guests had also fallen ill.

Nicola said she was suspicious about the pate and asked twice if it was safe to consume, and was assured it was fine.

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She said: 'We feel it spoilt the memory of the day. We had saved for years for our special day. It was ruined.

'What is worse is that I knew something was wrong with the pate - it looked completely different from our tasting session.

'We asked the staff twice to check it was fit for consumption and they assured us it was.

'I would not wish it on my worst enemy.

'I feel so embarrassed. When we got back from the honeymoon we realised everyone was ill. No one had wanted to tell us while we were away in case it ruined our honeymoon.'

Alex's brother-in-law Richard Tompkins, 40, a sales manager, was so ill he lost 21lb and was bedridden and off work for two weeks.

The hotel was prosecuted by health and safety officers and has now been fined £8,300 for failing to heat the chicken liver pate to the correct temperature.

Merchandiser Nicola and Alex, an electrician, from Luton, Beds, saved a total of £16,000 for their wedding and honeymoon and got married at Letchworth Hall Hotel, in Herts., on September 3, 2011.

Nicola said they fell in love with the hotel the first time they saw it. 'When we walked in the hotel, we knew it was the one,' she said. 'They really bigged up the kitchen and food.'

They spent £5,550 on a wedding breakfast for the guests, welcome drinks, meal drinks and a toast drink but got the venue for free as part of a special offer.

Because they were unhappy about the pate they complained the next day and the hotel gave them £400 towards their bar tab.

The newlyweds then left for their £2,200 honeymoon in Las Vegas on September 5, but only managed one romantic meal before they both fell ill with stomach cramps and diarrhoea.

They spent the rest of the five-day holiday confined to the room, eating nothing more than dry toast and drinking mineral water.

When they got back to Britain on September 10 they realised 49 of their guests had food poisoning and Nicola's sister had called in environmental health officers. Fortunately their parents and the best man opted for the soup.

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Nicola said: 'People ask us what we did in Las Vegas and we have to say nothing.

'We were left just looking out of the window thinking we wish we were sat by the pool.

'It is not how you expect to spend your first week as husband and wife.

'I felt so ill. We didn't understand what was wrong with us, at one point I thought I was going to die.

'I thought Alex just had a headache. But taking him on the helicopter trip was the worst thing for him - I thought he was going to keel over on me.

'All we could eat was dry toast and spent 150 dollars on the mini bar just on water and vitamin drinks. We should have been splashing out on champagne.

'We only went out for one meal.'

After returning home the couple were still weak and unwell but had to struggle at work because Nicola was still in her probation period and Alex is self-employed.

The case was prosecuted by North Hertfordshire District Council and the hotel pleaded guilty to two charges of poor food hygiene practice at Hertford Magistrates' Court on May 18.

Magistrates heard that 49 of the 118 guests at the hotel had eaten the chicken liver pate starter and reported illness after the meal, with doctors confirming 22 cases of an infection called Campylobacter - including the bride and groom.

The hotel was forced to pay £6,300 for the first offence and £2,000 for the second and made to pay the full court costs of £3,870 to NHDC, which received the initial complaint five days after the wedding on September 8.

Environmental health officers established that the chef had cooked the chicken livers to 60 degrees C, in breach of hotel policy and Food Standards Agency guidance which recommends a temperature of 75 degrees C to prevent food poisoning.

Nicola and Alex later spent £4,800 for a 'replacement' honeymoon to New York and Mexico in December 2011.

Nicola added: 'I cannot touch pate now and won't for the rest of my life. It makes me feel sick just seeing it in the supermarket.

'I am pleased they have admitted they were wrong and that they have learnt from it. We just do not want this to happen to any other couples.

'It is a shame that our wedding had to be ruined for them to improve their standards.'

Letchworth Hall Hotel admitted undercooking the pate, rendering it unsafe for human consumption, and failing to ensure the kitchen followed the company food safety policy and procedures, including a failure of management to uphold those procedures.

The hotel was told to improve its service and in a repeat inspection on May 8 it received a five out of five rating for food hygiene standards.

A spokesman for Letchworth Hall Hotel said: 'Letchworth Hall Hotel wishes to express its deep regret and offer its sincere apologies to Mr and Mrs Hamill and their wedding guests.

'This incident was unprecedented in our past of catering to countless similar large events, a fact also reflected in our recent receipt of a five star food hygiene rating.'