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Fat Duck diners seek legal damages over norovirus outbreak

21 September 2009 by
Fat Duck diners seek legal damages over norovirus outbreak

Victims of the food poisoning outbreak at Heston Blumenthal's three-Michelin-starred Fat Duck restaurant are seeking legal damages from the chef.

Blumenthal closed the iconic restaurant in Bray, Berkshire, for two weeks in February and March after more than 500 diners were struck down by norovirus, or winter vomiting bug.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) released a report on its investigation into the outbreak earlier this month stating the official cause was contaminated shellfish.

The report pointed to "several weaknesses in procedures" at the Fat Duck including delayed response to the incident and staff working when they should have been off sick.

The victims are now seeking damages against Blumenthal over the chef's ‘pathetic response' to the episode, according to the Daily Mail.
Solicitors Hill Dickson are acting for boxing promoter Frank Warren and a number of other high-profile figures while TV presenter Jim Rosenthal has hired another legal firm to pursue his claim.

However, a spokeswoman for the Fat Duck defended the restaurant, saying it was still in the process of reviewing the HPA's report.

"Unfortunately, until our insurers and legal teams have completed this review we are unable to comment further and we have written to all of our guests who were affected to advise them of this," she said.

The HPA's investigation focused on laboratory testing of diners with symptoms of diarrhoea and vomiting; and on illness among staff; as well as the examination of the restaurant environment and food processing, handling and supply; and laboratory testing of food samples.

Peter Todd, solicitor and partner at Hodge Jones & Allen LLP, told Caterer that, even if unable to prove negligence on behalf of the Fat Duck, the victims could sue the restaurant under the Consumer Protection Act.

"The Act is designed to help safeguard the consumer from products that do not reach a reasonable level of safety and restaurant food would be considered a product in this sense," Todd said.

"The norovirus is considered a minor form of food poisoning and general damages range from £600 to £2500 depending on the degree of illness. The restaurant's insurers could head off claims by making an offer of compensation to everyone affected."

Contaminated shellfish caused food scare at Michelin-starred Fat Duck >>

Norovirus may have closed Fat Duck, says Blumenthal >>

Heston Blumenthal gets go ahead to reopen the Fat Duck >>

The Fat Duck: Business as usual after recent food scare? >>

By Kerstin Kühn

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