Fat Duck link to human faeces: official

The award-winning Fat Duck restaurant has been slammed in an official report into the outbreak of food poisoning which took place there earlier this year.

The report by the HPA (Health Protection Agency) stated that the outbreak was “almost certain” to have been caused by shellfish taken from an “area of water” that “may probably” have contained a “small trace of human faeces”.

The investigation also found that a “proportion” of the faeces could have originated from “the type of people who may have eaten at restaurants such as Fat Duck at one time or another”, thereby proving that a percentage of diners actually suffered food poisoning as a direct result of having eaten at the restaurant previously without any problems whatsoever. The HPA terms this experience as “secondary food poisoning”.

The report also slammed the fact that staff “may have” gone to work “without perhaps knowing” that they “may well have been ill for all they know” and that the so-called “dirty dishcloth” hanging from the handle of the far oven “may not have helped matters from a PR point of view”.

Peter Ian, who worked in the kitchen during his gap year, said yesterday: “Everyone knew about the ‘dirty dishcloth’. It was the most versatile thing in that kitchen and we used it for all sorts, including keeping the fire door open for smoking purposes, as a handkerchief, for cleaning up spillages, killing flies, and at one point it even got used as a whip. One of the chefs even made a bandana out of it to keep the sweat off his face – he was new to the team and I don’t think he quite appreciated its’ history. It became a big feature of that kitchen and we always looked forward to coming into work and seeing it smiling up at us, usually from the corner on the ground where it had been used under someone’s foot as a floor-polisher the night before. It was a sad day when the health inspectors came round and we ended up having to burn it out the back.”

The HPA said the outbreak wouldn’t have been down to the “dirty dishcloth” because, in all kitchens, the “dirty dishcloth” is governed by the “Five Second Rule” – a short period of bacterial stasis which prevents germs from permeating the item when it is either inappropriately used or dropped on to the floor. The rule is due to be amended next year to allow the stasis to exist beyond five seconds for essential misuse – such as cleaning out an air vent or smothering a chip pan fire – so long as the user only looks out of the corner of their eye throughout.

The Fat Duck was allowed to re-open in March after fully complying with all HPA recommendations, and is now among a handful of restaurants in the country operating without a “dirty dishcloth” entirely. A spokesperson said: “At first we found that it cost us a lot of time and effort, but now we’re so used to things as they are that we forgot we ever had one. For instance, if we spill something on the floor now, we’ll just give it a dab with old “manky mop” from the understairs cupboard. I don’t think we’ve ever looked back since, to be honest.”

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