Fat Duck criticizes health types at chef conference

From the this-guy-just-can’t-shut up file, Heston Blumenthal whined, err, told a conference in London yesterday that the Health Protection Agency (HPA) should do more to support the industry, stating,

“There is a real lack of support to restaurants from the HPA when it comes to handling something like a norovirus outbreak and it is only because of the status of the Fat Duck that we survived this. If we were a small independent restaurant, we would have been forced to close as a result of this. Our industry is so fragile and there is so little support.”

The HPA released a report on its investigation into the norovirus outbreak at the Fat Duck, which affected more than 500 diners, earlier this month stating the official cause was contaminated shellfish. Among the findings:

• oysters were served raw;

• razor clams may not have been appropriately handled or cooked;

• the outbreak continued for at least six weeks (between January 6 and February 22) because of ongoing transmission at the restaurant – which may have occurred through continuous contamination of foods prepared in the restaurant or by person-to-person spread between staff and diners or a mixture of both??????; and,

• several weaknesses in procedures at the restaurant may have contributed to ongoing transmission including delayed response to the incident, staff working when they should have been off sick and using the wrong environmental cleaning products???

Blumenthal went on to tell the conference that both the experts appointed by the Fat Duck and those by its insurers believed that there were a number of flaws in the HPA report, including its criticism of the restaurant’s staff sickness policy and its use of anti-bacterial cleaning agents.

“Some of the elements in the report were supposition,” he said.

Blumenthal also criticized HPA for the way it released the report, arguing he and his team of insurers and legal experts were given no time to analyse its findings before it was released to the public.

“We were told we would be given 24 hours to analyse the report before it would be released to the public but in fact we were only given three hours,” he said.

That’s more warning than the 529 people who were barfing on widely expensive food porn received.

And Heston, there’s nothing that builds consumer confidence more than have a government agency in tight with the industry it regulates. It’s the Health Protection Agency, not the Boost Restaurant Revenues Agency. HPA is to protect human health, and encourage places like restaurants to do the same. Making 529 customers sick is bad for business, but not the fault of the HPA.

This guy provides so much material I don’t have to resort to calling him the love child of Alton Brown and longtime Toronto Maple Leaf hockey player Mats Sundin.