In february there was an outbreak of virus in Noma’s kitchen and 64 guests have reportedly fallen ill, probably with the common Norovirus.
I have been to the Noma kitchen many times, and have always found it to be extremely clean. But with approximately 50 cooks working in the kitchen Noma is naturally at a higher risk than restaurants with only a few cooks.
The danish food safety authorities claim, in an interview with newschannel DR, that there have been a problem with hand hygiene and therefore downgraded the Noma kitchen in their control scheme called “smiley ordningen”. Noma used to have the highest ranking, and moving down one step still places the famous restaurant on a top level.
On march 9th Noma issued this statement:
Statement about cases of sickness
By – March 9, 2013
At noma, having happy and satisfied guests is paramount to our daily work and lives, and is our number one priority.
Unfortunately during week 7 (February 12th -16th) 2013, there were a number of cases where guests at noma where hit by Norovirus after their visit. It is a matter that deeply affects us all, and that we sincerely regret.
Since receiving the news, we have been working closely with the Danish Food & Drug Administration to find the source of the problem. As a result of our collaboration, we have determined the most likely cause of illness was Norovirus, which may have been brought in by a member of staff, who was symptom-free.
As a precaution the kitchen and restaurant have been deep cleaned several times following Health Inspection guidelines. This has been done on top of the overall cleaning, which takes place several times a day. Finally, all foods from week 7 were destroyed.
We have been in direct contact with all the customers affected.
Response to media reports/facts
• When did it happen
In the second week of February noma received information that guests had felt unwell. We were advised by the Danish Food & Drug Administration/health department, that norovirus, the winter flu bug was the cause. They advised that it was spread via a staff member, who was a carrier and did not show any symptoms of the virus.
• Number of sick guests
There were 63 guests who got sick during this time period out of a total of 435 guests who visited the restaurant at that time.
• Response time
We received the first e-mail Thursday Feb 14. We have staff and guests from all over the world and unfortunately there was a slight delay as the email was picked up initially by a non-Danish speaking member of the team and wasn’t responded to until Monday after the weekend service. We have addressed this and immediately changed our internal procedures.
• Actions taken in the kitchen
After Managing Director Peter Kreiner spoke with the Health Department on Monday Feb 18 guidelines were given and procedure put in place. noma is closed Monday so Tuesday morning staff re-set and cleansed the kitchen thoroughly. This procedure also included disposal of all produce which had been touched during the previous days. The procedure was repeated 3 more times during the following 48 hours.
On Feb 20, noma had a meeting and inspection with the Danish Food & Drug Administration/Health department. They were satisfied with their findings and the restaurant was given the all clear.
• Hot water
noma is required to have at least one sink for washing hands in the kitchen. Noma has kitchens on two floors. On both floors noma has two sinks for washing hands. On the day it was tested, Wednesday Feb 20, three sinks worked to full satisfaction with very hot water, and the last one in the prep-kitchen was only lukewarm when tested. Noma’s reaction was to call a plumber immediately to fix the problem, and it was.
• Policy for members off staff
Noma has always had a strict policy for members of staff showing signs of sickness, and that is to send them home immediately and ask them to stay home for 48 hours even after they feel well.
• Our affected guests
Managing Director Peter Kreiner immediately contacted all the parties after received the notice, informed them of the findings and assured them noma was cooperating closely and transparently with the Danish Food & Drug Administration/Health department to get to the bottom of this, and that they would be kept updated. The cooperation included tests of norovirus among both staff as well as guests. When the first results came in, indicating norovirus, guests were informed and offered either to return as our guests or to be fully refunded. We are delighted that many guests have already accepted the offer to return to noma.
• Publication of the case
On Thursday Feb 28, noma received a copy of the new report from the Danish Food & Drug Administration/Health department, since noma received the new report we have placed it front of the restaurant, so it is visible to guests before they enter the restaurant.
Furthermore on March 1, we also published a link to the latest report on our website.
We are of course devastated that this has happened and have done everything in our power to ensure it will not happen again.
Thank you for your support.
Rene Redzepi and the entire team at noma
Information about norovirus: