10 September 2009
The in-depth investigation into what caused 529 people to report being ill after eating at the Fat Duck restaurant in Bray, Berkshire, during January and February this year concludes with publication of a report by the Health Protection Agency today.
The investigation was conducted by the HPA and Environmental Health Officers from the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead. Berkshire East Primary Care Trust was also involved. The final report has been delayed due to the swine flu pandemic which required priority response from the Health Protection Agency.
Investigations focused on laboratory testing of diners with symptoms of diarrhoea and vomiting (where possible); analysis of detailed questionnaires sent to others who reported similar illness; investigation of illness among staff; examination of the restaurant environment and food processing, handling and supply; laboratory testing of food samples.
Putting together findings from all these parts of the investigation, the main conclusions were that:
The restaurant co-operated fully with the investigation and was able to re-open in March following recommendations to review the food management system to minimise risk of cross-contamination; to identify early warnings of increased staff or customer illness and ensure prompt notification to the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Environmental Health team and to use a variety of education tools to support understanding in those staff whose first language is not English.
Wider recommendations to other restaurants and food-handlers are that norovirus is an important cause of food poisoning and is easily spread so there needs to be scrupulous attention to food and personal hygiene especially when handling shellfish.
Restaurants that suspect food-poisoning among staff or diners should quickly seek advice and support from their local authority's environmental health team and the Health Protection Agency. This can prevent incidents becoming prolonged outbreaks and reduce the number of diners and staff affected.
HPA South East Regional Director, Dr Graham Bickler, said: "This investigation has been long, complex and thorough. It confirms the well-known risks that raw shellfish pose. Oysters and other shellfish can become contaminated with norovirus originating from human sewage, especially during winter months.
"Individuals infected with norovirus can readily transfer the virus onto foods they prepare. The virus will remain viable and capable of causing illness in those foods that are not subsequently cooked…the more intensively that food is handled the more likely it is to become contaminated by infected food handlers."
Cllr Phillip Bicknell, the Royal Borough's Lead Member for public protection said, "Our environmental health officers and colleagues in the HPA have worked hard to resolve this issue. We are committed to the welfare of our residents and visitors and are pleased this issue has been resolved."
See the full report:
Foodborne illness at The Fat Duck restaurant
More information on Norovirus: http://www.hpa.org.uk/HPA/Topics/InfectiousDiseases/InfectionsAZ/1191942172966/
HPA: Communications team: 01243 815109; 0207 759 2834/2824
Out of hours: 07789 295454
Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Comms team: 01628 796220
Last reviewed: 10 September 2009