‘World’s Best Restaurant’ Blamed For 67 Diners’ Illnesses

| March 9, 2013 | 0 Comments
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The famed Noma restaurant in Copenhagen has been blamed for more than 60 of its diners falling ill. Investigators say an illness spread from the staff to the customers. Photo: Keld Navntoft/AFP/Getty Images

The famed Noma restaurant in Copenhagen has been blamed for more than 60 of its diners falling ill. Investigators say an illness spread from the staff to the customers. Photo: Keld Navntoft/AFP/Getty Images

by Bill Chappell, The Salt at NPR Food (3/8/13)

Noma, the Danish eatery that has won fans with its innovative approach to Nordic cuisine, and won Restaurant magazine’s “World’s Best Restaurant” title the past three years, is getting some unwelcome press, after dozens of people who ate at the Copenhagen restaurant fell sick.

A formal review by Denmark’s food agency, Fødevarestyrelsen, found that 67 diners suffered from nausea and diarrhea after contracting a norovirus at the restaurant between Feb. 12 and Feb. 16, reports The Copenhagen Post. In that period, 78 people ate at the small restaurant.

After the food agency found that members of the restaurant’s staff had spread the illness to patrons, it issued an official warning to Noma. In a kitchen that was outfitted with exotic equipment such as a Pacojet (to make fine sorbets) and a Thermomix (to combine ingredients at specific temperatures), the Danish food agency found there was no hot water tap to let employees wash their hands properly.

Noma has not yet responded to the findings, but the Fødevarestyrelsen report mentions that the restaurant pledged to adopt better practices to disinfect its kitchen after an employee falls ill. It also called a plumber to add hot water to the wash basin used by employees.

Explaining the allure of the 12-seat restaurant back in 2010, a report on All Things Considered noted that Noma maintains a strict policy about where it gets its supplies: “Chef Rene Redzepi, 32, will only use food that is native to the Nordic region. That means no tomatoes, no olive oil — instead, he employs a wide array of local and wild food he often forages himself.”

Noma has played a key role in the emergence of cuisine called New Nordic, credited with “making over an old-fashioned and, some would say, outdated cuisine,” as The Salt reported last year.

As the BBC reports, “Noma charges up to 1,500 kroner (£175; $260) for a menu without drinks, and reservations often must be made months in advance.”

Copyright 2013 NPR.

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Food and Health-related stories from NPR including NPR Radio; NPR's food blog, "The Salt"; NPR's Health News blog, "Shots"; NPR's Breaking News blog "The Two-Way"; NPR's economy explainer "Planet Money"; food-related technology news from NPR's "All Tech Considered"; and food series "Kitchen Window."