Own a restaurant? You'll need insurance.

Would You Like a Side of Norovirus With Those Oysters?

You may be only too aware of a particularly nasty ailment called norovirus. It is actually likely that you are more familiar with its effects; namely nausea, vomiting, dehydration and the immortally-dreaded diarrhoea. In other words, norovirus is considered to be the "grandaddy" or all stomach bugs. Such instances of food poisoning are indeed quite rare, but as the restaurant The Fat Duck proves, even the most reputable establishments cannot avoid the devastating effects of mother nature.

In January of 2009, this Berkshire restaurant was all but famous throughout the region for its exquisite line of cuisine. What makes this story even more painful is that The Fat Duck had (and still has) no less than a three-Michelin star rating and it was previously voted as the Best Restaurant in the UK. Still, patrons that were dining during the chilly evenings in January may have slightly disagreed with these accolades.

One of the favourite dishes at the Fat Duck were oysters. These seafood delights were eaten by countless customers and to the restaurant's chagrin, it seemed that someone who had been infected with norovirus had inadvertently contaminated the oysters during their handling. The end result was the mass food poisoning of no less than approximately two hundred and forty patrons (at least those who reported the illness). This was actually seen as the worst outbreak of the norovirus in any eating establishment in the entire United Kingdom since records have been kept!

One of the issues with the severity of the outbreak was said to be the pronounced delays in reporting the suspected outbreak to the relevant authorities. After the pesky disease had subsided, the Food Standards Agency modified their guidelines for the categorisation and reporting of any suspected outbreak. Thankfully, the reputation of The Fat Duck seemed to have been the only aspect to have emerged unscathed; the demand for reservations did not diminish and while there is no doubt that the owner's pride suffered (as did the bowels of the patrons) a bit, it was found that the establishment did not violate any food safety regulations and therefore, its insurance premiums, presumably, did not go through the roof. Nonetheless, this outbreak caused untold embarrassment to The Fat Duck and it is quite reasonable to assume that a good portion of the customers that experienced this painful illness still have not returned.

Copyright Carole Fletcher 2014