Norovirus and celebrity chef a risky mix

Norovirus has been found in shellfish from the Waitara region of New Zealand. Heston Blumenthal of the Fat Duck and host of a norovirus outbreak that sickened 529 patrons in the U.K. in 2009 is going to New Zealand to help prepare a $7,000-a-plate dinner in March 2011.

Careful with that raw shellfish.

Taranaki’s Medical Officer of Health Dr Greg Simmons, said,

"The issue with norovirus is that the infectious dose, in other words, the amount of viral particles you need to consume in order to develop an illness is quite low, so there is a potential risk there. That risk to me would be unacceptable, and I wouldn’t expect other people to expose themselves to that risk."

The virus was found during testing for a resource consent application by New Plymouth District Council, which wants to continue piping Waitara’s partially-treated sewerage into the sea.

One sample had moderate levels of human strains of norovirus – four others had low levels.

Dr Simmons ordered the council to erect signs on Waitara’s beach advising of the hazard.

Australian chef Neil Perry has enticed close friends Heston Blumenthal, the British star of TV cooking show Heston’s Feast, and American Thomas Keller, the creator of The French Laundry restaurant in California, to create a six-course degustation dinner on March 26 next year.

A seat at the table will set each couple back at least $7000 – which includes a three-night stay at the five-star resort near Napier.