Couple sue their wedding caterers after their mac 'n' cheese poisoned 100 guests

Couple sue their wedding caterers after their mac 'n' cheese poisoned 100 guests

Planning weddings are no small feat. Some couples sweat every detail of their wedding, worried something will go wrong: their chairs won’t be delivered on time, the flower girl will cry, the live band may be a bad idea. One thing you definitely want to be done well is the food.

One thing people probably don't see coming is 100 of their guests getting violently ill with food poisoning at the reception, and 22 requiring hospitalisation. This nightmarish scenario is exactly what played out at the 2015 wedding of New York state couple Jesse Abbott and Melissa Conarton.

Fast forward a couple of years (happy to see that they didn't take the disaster as a sign they shouldn't be wed), the bride and groom have now filed suit against their wedding’s caterer, alleging the reception’s mac ‘n’ cheese was to blame for the sudden onset of severe food poisoning.

Symptoms began immediately at the reception, taking place at the Arrowhead Lodge in the Oneida Shores Park, where a “red tarp was designated as the triage for their most dire guests”. Nine ambulances were dispatched to transport the 22 sickest guests to the hospital.

The local health department confirmed all patients tested positive for staph, a bacterium that is not itself harmful but which can produce toxins that cause food poisoning. The Centers For Disease Control says staph can be passed from a person to food if that person doesn’t wash their hands; it is also present in unpasteurized milk and cheeses. Food contaminated with staph doesn’t look or smell off.

Talking to local news, Jesse Abbot said: “It’s so difficult to see not only your friends and closest family, but when you see young children, too, going through this experience. It was terrible.” You expect a few people to keel over after a few drinks but a significant part of your reception after some mac n cheese is a whole other story.

According to, lawyers for the caterer, Holy Smoke BBQ and Catering of Earlville, New York, declined to comment on the pending litigation. The couple is seeking reimbursement for their guests’ hospital bills so that no one has to “incur debt from their reception”. If this had been my reception and the caterer was indeed to blame, I’d be suing for a whole new wedding.

As if mac n cheese wasn't bad enough for you already, a 2017 study conducted by the Coalition for Safer Food Processing and Packaging entitled Klean up Kraft says that the student staple may be worse for you than you think.

The Coalition sampled 30 different cheese product items, representing a number of different food brands and varieties retailed in the United States, and found that 29 of those 30 contained a high number of phthalate chemicals, which are often added to food (or plastic) to increase their flexibility.

They're not currently banned by the FDA, but that doesn't mean they're not potentially harmful; phthalates have been linked to hormone disruption in boys, not to mention birth defects in young infant boys. Worryingly, mac and cheese as we know it was found to contain around four times as many phthalates than most of the other cheese products.

I like to think the caterers didn't use anything artificial in their recipe (thus allowing cultures like staph to grow) but either way it isn't good news for mac lovers. Use quality goods you know where they came from, and you should be okay. Can't have you not eating mac n cheese anymore, can we?