Heston Blumenthal has blamed the norovirus, also known as the ‘winter vomiting bug,’ for the closure of The Fat Duck, despite the Health Protection Agency (HPA) reporting ‘no conclusive findings.’
The chef told the Australian Hospitality magazine during a visit to the Melbourne Food and Drink Festival that most tests for food poisoning or hygiene related causes had returned inconclusive, but claimed a number of staff had tested positive for the norovirus.
“It is categorically not food poisoning, we know that,” he said. “The only thing that has come up is that three staff and five customers have been tested positive for the norovirus.”
The HPA however have not confirmed the cause of the outbreak, having said in a statement: “At present, our investigation is still ongoing and we have no conclusive findings. We are still trying to build a clear picture of the source of illness.”
Often referred to as the winter vomiting bug, the norovirus is a highly contagious virus thought to cause around half of all food-borne cases of gastroenteritis, and causes intense vomiting and diarrhoea.
Blumenthal closed his three-Michelin starred restaurant in Bray for two weeks earlier this month, after 40 people complained of sickness and diarrhoea. Subsequent media coverage of the outbreak increased the number of complaints to 400, prompting the HPA to launch a full investigation.
The chef was given the all clear to reopen his restaurant on 12 March after a two-week closure saw him lose 800 bookings, and a potential £300k. The HPA has said it expects the investigation to continue for ‘some weeks in order to build a more complete picture.’