He may know molecular but he don’t know noro; Fat Duck restaurant ranked 1

BBC News reports that the Fat Duck restaurant, owned by chef Heston Blumenthal, has been named the U.K.’s best restaurant for the third year in a row by the Good Food Guide and described as producing "world-beating dishes for the bedazzled throngs."

The guide, compiled by consumer group Which?, should be more discerning on behalf of consumers, like the 529 who were left barfing with norovirus after dining at the Duc.

The tasting menu includes a course called Sound of the Sea, during which the diner eats smoked fish, edible "sand" and "seaweed" while listening to seagulls on an iPod.

I’m going to hurl.

PEI norovirus restaurant employs the Fat Duck Defense; blames suppliers

Following up on that norovirus outbreak linked to a restaurant in Prince Edward Island, Canada, the one where the restaurant said it has never had a food safety problem and that its ingredients were fresh and local – and where at least 48 people are barfing – a barfblog.com reader wrote:

"It’s a shame don’t you think? I was one of the unfortunate diners to get sick from eating there, and even after having 48 people reporting to the health department about being sick, the restaurant hasn’t been shut down for a thorough cleaning, and nothing has been done, no apology or anything, and even worse, when my sister-in-law called the restaurant to talk with them, they denied it and said it couldn’t have happened since they never got sick from eating the food (two people from the restaurant have since admitted to being sick) and then said it must have come from her suppliers."

(This is known as the Fat Duck Defense in honor of Heston Blumenthal and his staff sickening over 500 customers with norovirus in the U.K. in early 2009.)

"Unfortunately we will probably never find out what it was that caused all of us to become sick."

Diners’ fury at Heston Blumenthal’s £200k food bug payout

A year after 529 diners were sickened by norovirus at the swanky Fat Duck restaurant in the U.K., after the chef, Heston Blumenthal, blamed his decision to buy and serve raw oysters grown in human sewage on others, and months after a government report slammed the restaurant for letting sick workers work, Blumenthal has received £200,000 compensation for lost business related to the incident while sick diners have yet to receive a penny.

The Mail Online repots the payout news has angered scores of customers still fighting the restaurant for compensation.

Deborah Darke, 53, a deputy headteacher from Ilfracombe, Devon, who was one of the diners who became ill, said,

“I’m incensed the restaurant has received this payout when so many are still waiting for compensation. I understand that if he was supplied with contaminated food it is not his fault, but the report said there were hygiene issues. I won’t be returning.”

Feeding birds on Thanksgiving

I enjoyed a nice thanksgiving with my family in Wichita this year. After an enjoyable Thanksgiving lunch, complete with turkey, potatoes, green been casserole, and all the holiday staples, we decided to walk off our turkey coma by visiting the park. My parents live close to Sedgwick County Park in Wichita, KS; we use the park a lot mainly to walk the dog, but they have great running trails and nice playgrounds for when my two younger cousins come over. 

I got a free bag of cat food from school and had planned on feeding the ducks and geese that live on the ponds located within the park. We loaded my two cousins up in the car and headed to the park for some bird-feeding on turkey day. The birds at the park are quite tame and will get very close if you offer them food. Naturally, they enjoyed the cat food thoroughly. I wasn’t content to just feed them; that became boring after awhile. I decided a fun challenge would be to try to pick up one of the birds. (I’ll admit I’ve done this before at parks). I’ve worked with poultry in undergrad, so I felt that if I could pick up a turkey and carry it, surely I could pick up a goose or duck. First I coaxed the birds to eat out of my hand, and then after slowly sneaking closer to them just grabbed them up like little footballs. 

The kids thought it was hilarious, but I don’t think my parents/uncle and aunt were all that excited. Mom looked at me and said, “Those birds are filthy, I thought you knew better not to touch them!” Yes, indeed the birds are probably very dirty. They could’ve been (and probably were) infected with all sorts of bacteria and protozoa. Doug probably wouldn’t like that.  The smartest thing to do would to keep the birds’ feet out of your mouth; luckily this was not a hard task. I was also very careful not to put my hands near my mouth or on my face to contaminate myself. Ideally I would’ve used hand sanitizer after holding the birds, but unfortunately I was not thinking far enough ahead. My idea of vacation is having a good time, and most of the time that takes place in a germ-free environment. But if animals are involved (except in the case of reptiles), I tend to be a little more lax in my “germaphobe-ness.”

Just because animals carry germs doesn’t mean that we need to completely steer clear of them. However, the age of the person handling the animal must be taken into consideration. Kids under the age of 7 (or maybe even12) don’t seem to get the idea to keep your hands out of your mouth around the dogs. The bottom line (for all your petting zoo-lovers) is to be smart and wash your hands before and after handling animals.


Heston Blumenthal of The Fat Duck continues to blame others for over 500 getting sick in his restaurant; manuals are not the basis of food safety

When naïve me and my students started out to improve the microbial safety of Ontario greenhouse tomatoes and cucumbers back in 1997, the former of which still dominate the Manhattan (Kansas) marketplace, we thought, OK, we’ll make a food safety manual.

We had another idea, which was to actually go out and talk to people, and we found out the manual pretty much stayed on the shelves.

So when Heston Blumenthal, a UK chef who says that after 529 people barfed from norovirus at his famed Fat Duck restaurant,

“Our staff training manual very clearly lays out a 48-hour return to work policy – you don’t come back to work until 48 hours after you feel better – and I don’t know many restaurants that do that,”

I sorta wanna barf. People don’t read manuals and they don’t follow them. And why would anyone pay a couple hundred bucks to eat at this dude’s restaurant when he had no idea of food safety or sourcing food from safe supplies.

To me, Heston Blumenthal sounds like that rapper douche, Chris Brown, who keeps popping up to say he don’t know what happened when he beat his girlfriend at the time, Rihanna, but that people are still supposed to listen to him.

Heston, the famed chef of The Fat Duck, told This is London in a story published yesterday,

Legal constraints during the investigation by the Health Protection Agency, and again during further investigative work by insurers, effectively gagged him.

It’s clear that he found this enormously frustrating, and hated not being able to talk.

"The insurance company just put a big veil over everything too. For a while, I wasn’t allowed to go to Bray because the place was crawling with reporters."

The source was eventually traced to a specific strain of norovirus, or vomiting bug, found in oysters served in two dishes – "Jelly of Oyster and Passionfruit with Lavender", and the "Sound of the Sea".

"The report insinuated things that I find really frustrating," says Blumenthal. "For example, that people were back at work while they were physically ill.

"Now, our staff training manual very clearly lays out a 48-hour return to work policy – you don’t come back to work until 48 hours after you feel better – and I don’t know many restaurants that do that.

"I’d say there’s no other restaurant in the history of Britain that’s gone through such an investigation and then had the results released fully to the public in such detail."

"You have to ask the question: how is it that oysters are allowed to be harvested from waters containing sewage – at low levels, but sewage nevertheless – when this thing is so horrendously contagious?

"You only need one spore, and an oyster with a virus is still a glisteningly fresh clean oyster. It has no smell, and it’s very hard to test for."

It’s not a spore, it’s a virus. And since it’s so hard to test for, maybe you shouldn’t serve oysters raw if you don’t want your customers to barf.

Oh and Heston, I played with liquid nitrogen 25 years ago doing DNA sequencing; doesn’t make you a rock star; especially if over 500 people barf on your watch.

As the U.K. Health Protection Agency concluded earlier this year,

Delays in notification of illness may have affected the ability of the investigation to identify the exact reason for the norovirus contamination??????.

As I’ve said, it’s the chef’s responsibility to source food from safe sources. If the chef thinks raw shellfish is a smart thing to serve, and to have sick workers working, then customers get what they pay for.

Fat Duck spared, chippy owner charged by local council after E. coli O157 illnesses

The Fat Duck sickened 529 customers with norovirus, adopted a ridiculous PR strategy, and continues to blame others even though employees were working sick. The local council decided not to prosecute.

The Llay Fish Bar, thought to be the source of an E. coli O157 outbreak that sickened four including a new mother left in a coma, will be prosecuted by the Wrexham Council.

It’s like television sports presenter and Fat Duck norovirus victim Jim Rosenthal said a couple of days ago:

“If it was a café at a lay-by doing what he did they would have been taken to court long ago.”

Boxing promoter Frank Warren, who is also still awaiting compensation, said,

"The whole way they have handled this has been a disaster from start to finish. To hear that the council isn’t going to take him on doesn’t surprise me – it’s just because of who he is rather than what he’s done or not done.”

Fat Duck won’t face charges – ‘I’ll never set foot in there again’ says food poisoning victim

The Telegraph reports this morning that Heston Blumenthal and the Fat Duck restaurant – home to 529 cases of norovirus earlier this year – will not face criminal charges despite failures in reporting illness and what appears to be an overall lack of food safety awareness.

Windsor and Maidenhead Council said that although the restaurant could have taken greater steps to combat the norovirus outbreak, there was insufficient evidence to take formal action.

Jim Rosenthal, the television sports presenter, who was among those affected after dining at the restaurant to celebrate his wife Chrissy’s birthday, said,

“I’m disappointed but not surprised. Unfortunately, the council has probably been forced to take a pragmatic view and decide against what would probably be the enormous cost of mounting a case against someone who can afford the best lawyers." If it was a café at a lay-by doing what he did they would have been taken to court long ago. Chrissy and I will never set foot in there again.”

Boxing promoter Frank Warren, who is also still awaiting compensation, said,

"The whole way they have handled this has been a disaster from start to finish. To hear that the council isn’t going to take him on doesn’t surprise me – it’s just because of who he is rather than what he’s done or not done.”

A spokeswoman for the Duckster claimed that the HPA report was "flawed" and continued to blame others.

“We are not surprised by the local authority’s decision, given that the Health Protection Agency’s report clearly concludes that responsibility for the outbreak lies with a shellfish supplier and the local water authority after its shellfish was contaminated with the norovirus. Regarding the assumptions made about The Fat Duck in the report, both our own experts and those appointed by our insurers believe them to be flawed.”

The Fat Duck Cookbook has no suggestions on how to avoid norovirus and barfing on expensive food

A review of Heston Blumenthal’s, The Fat Duck Cookbook, appeared in this morning’s edition of the U.K. Independent newspaper.

Among the highlights:

“Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck Cookbook is presumably intended as a souvenir for those who have laid out £130 on the Tasting Menu at Blumenthal’s Fat Duck restaurant in Bray. At least it will give them a lasting memory of the meal. From several Fat Duck customers, I have heard complaints that they were far from replete after the experience. Though it is called a cookbook, scarcely anyone will ever cook from this volume. Many dishes call for specialist equipment and recondite ingredients. A dessert called Lime Grove requires liquid nitrogen, a Dewar flask, malic acid and high methoxyl confectioner’s pectin. Even the simpler dishes call for more time and application than anyone but an extreme culinary obsessive will want to spend. “

No mention in the review or the book about how to control the spread of norovirus in an upscale restaurant. Fortunately, the U.K. Health Protection Agency has published some suggestions.

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.

Fat Duck still spinning but sorry for making 529 diners sick 7 months ago

I don’t know who does public relations for the Fat Duck restaurant but they should be fired.

Seven months after sickening 529 customers with norovirus, Fat Duck chef Heston Blumenthal today said,

"I am relieved to be able to finally offer my fullest apologies to all those who were affected by the outbreak at the Fat Duck. It was extremely frustrating to not be allowed to personally apologise to my guests until now.

"It was devastating to me and my whole team, as it was to many of our guests and I wish to invite them all to return to the Fat Duck at their convenience."

Wow. Saying sorry is not an expression of guilt. It is an expression of empathy. Like, that really sucks you and 528 other people are barfing. I barfed once and it felt awful. Hope you feel better.

Some spokesthingy for the restaurant said,

"The Fat Duck, its insurers, experts and legal advisers only received a copy of this report a few hours before its publication and have only now had time to consider its contents. This meant that until all these parties had had the opportunity to review it and take expert advice it wasn’t appropriate or indeed possible to comment in detail on its contents or respond fully to our customers.”

Of course, that didn’t stop  Blumenthal from issuing his own delusional statement on Sept. 10, 2009, as soon as the Health Protection Agency report was released:

“We are glad that the report has finally been published and draws a conclusion to the closure of the Fat Duck and more importantly that the norovirus has been identified as the cause and not due to any lapse in our strict food preparation processes. We were affected by this virus during a national outbreak of what is an extremely common and highly contagious virus. The restaurant has been open as normal since March 12 and I would like to reassure our guests that they can continue to visit us with total confidence.”

All apologies aside, the report clearly stated that the norovirus outbreak – linked to the consumption of raw oysters — continued for at least six weeks because of "ongoing transmission at the restaurant” through "continuous contamination of foods prepared in the restaurant or by person-to-person spread between staff and diners or a mixture of both." The report also identified poor reporting and sick staff showing up and working as factors in making the outbreak far worse than it should have been.

Saying sorry is nice but never enough. The Fat Duck should be judged on its food safety actions.