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Subject: Heston Blumenthal's Fat Duck 'had largest norovirus outbreak'

Written By: Philip Eno on 12/06/11 at 3:04 pm

The Fat Duck in Berkshire had the largest norovirus outbreak ever documented at a restaurant, according to a new report.

At least 240 people who ate at Heston Blumenthal's Bray restaurant in spring 2009 were affected by the vomiting bug.

The report claimed a delay in informing public health authorities "may have contributed to the outbreak size and duration".

A Fat Duck spokesman said it rejected any accusations of wrongdoing.

The claims are made in an academic journal, published by Cambridge University Press, which publishes reports and reviews on all aspects of infection in humans and animals.

'Risk of exposure'

It stated that although the first cases of norovirus were reported in early January, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) and local authority were not informed until late February.

The multi-authored report concluded the six-week delay "resulted in an ongoing risk of exposure to infection for diners".

It added: "The size and duration of this outbreak exceed any other commercial restaurant-associated norovirus outbreaks in the published literature."

The report also said that nine members of staff who had been ill returned to work before the national guideline of 48 hours.

It added: "It is not possible to rule out food-handler or environment-associated infection of some diners."

A spokesman for The Fat Duck said: "The reported illness in February 2009 at The Fat Duck was confirmed as oysters contaminated at source by norovirus.

"At the time we voluntarily closed the restaurant and called in the authorities.

No more oysters

"We are satisfied with all our procedures that were in place and strongly refute any accusations of wrongdoing."

The spokesman said that the restaurant had co-operated with all parties "fully and transparently" and had received a clean bill of health to reopen after a 10-day investigation.

"We also received full support by our insurers who found no fault in our practices following a report from a leading UK independent specialist," the spokesman said.

The restaurant said it no longer served oysters or razor clams.

Blumenthal opened the Fat Duck in 1995.

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