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Celebrity Chef Escapes Prosecution

Celebrity Chef Heston Blumenthal will not face prosecution for serving shellfish contaminated with norovirus to his guests last winter at his Fat Duck restaurant.

The United Kingdom’s Health Protection Agency found that contaminated oysters and poor hygiene by restaurant workers caused the norovirus outbreak that closed the Fat Duck for two weeks last February and sickened 529 diners.

The Fat Duck is one of three restaurants in Britain awarded three stars by Michelin.

Blumenthal’s handling of the outbreak and his response to the Health Protection Agency’s investigation upset some Fat Duck customers and many are suing the TV Chef.

“The health report concludes responsibility lies with a shellfish supplier and local water authority, ” the Fat Duck said in a statement.  “However, we apologized to customers involved and invite them to return.  Our insurers are dealing with compensation claims.”

Health officials found uncooked oysters supplied to the restaurant were contaminated with norovirus, probably from raw sewage that had been allowed to leak into the sea.  The report is critical of Fat Duck’s cleaning methods and of Blumenthal for not closing sooner after the outbreak was identified.

Fat Duck continues to call that part of the report “flawed.”

In the UK, the HPA conducts foodborne illness investigations, but the local Windsor and Maidenhead Council opted not to take any formal action against Blumenthal and Fat Duck.

“After careful consideration of all the facts surrounding this outbreak, it has been determined, in line with our Corporate Enforcement Policy, that while there were some actions which could have been taken which may have lessened the severity of the outbreak and the number of diners affected, there is insufficient evidence to show any clear breaches under Food Safety legislation and no further formal action will be taken on this occasion,” the Council statement said.

Colchester Oyster Fishery Limited was the oyster supplier, and Anglian Water is the local utility that discharged into the sea.

In other world restaurant news, the Ruby Chinese at 1571 Sandhurst Circle in Toronto is no more.

Ruby Chinese had scheduled a press conference on Friday, but canceled it.  Instead, the restaurant that was at the center of a Salmonella outbreak that resulted in one death filed for bankruptcy and closed forever.

The 17-year-old restaurant spread Salmonella to its customers from Sept. 12-20, making as many as 52 sick.  The restaurant was closed Oct. 7 with orders to correct health violations.

More than 60 worked at Ruby Chinese.

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