Page last updated at 17:54 GMT, Saturday, 26 September 2009 18:54 UK

Fat Duck free meal for ill diners

Heston Blumenthal
The celebrity chef has apologised for what happened

More than 500 diners who suffered food poisoning after eating at Heston Blumenthal's Fat Duck restaurant have been offered a free meal.

A norovirus outbreak hit the Michelin-starred establishment in Berkshire for six weeks in January and February.

Although the restaurant denied lapses in its food preparation, health investigators criticised its response in a recent report.

The chef has written to affected diners apologising for the "bad experience".

During the norovirus outbreak, diners reported bouts of vomiting and diarrhoea.

Mr Blumenthal, who presents cookery shows on television, initially said tests at the restaurant had ruled out food poisoning.

If the meal had been offered earlier it would have been better
Debra Drake

One diner who fell ill, Debra Drake, said the offer should have come sooner.

Ms Drake, a deputy head teacher from Ilfracombe, Devon, said she had spent more than £700 for dinner for two as a birthday surprise for her husband.

She said: "We did have a fabulous evening and I do appreciate that if he has suppliers that supply him with contaminated food.

"I feel slightly sorry that it isn't his fault. But if the meal had been offered earlier it would have been better."

In its report released earlier this month, the Health Protection Agency said the norovirus was probably introduced via shellfish.

But it said the outbreak of food poisoning was worsened by the Bray restaurant's "delayed response".

Investigators noted several weaknesses in the restaurant's procedures at the establishment in Bray which may have lead to the spread of the virus.

These included a delayed response to the illness, staff working when they should have been off sick and the use of the wrong environmental cleaning products.

The Fat Duck, which closed for more than two weeks while tests were carried out, reopened in March.

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