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Blumenthal bug 'not sabotage'

SABOTAGE was yesterday ruled out as an explanation for the health scare that caused the chef Heston Blumenthal to close his award-winning restaurant.

The "culinary alchemist" temporarily shut the Fat Duck as a precaution while tests were carried out after about 40 customers were taken ill over the past couple of weeks.

Blumenthal, who said food poisoning was no longer a possibility, decided to close the restaurant, which has three Michelin stars, in Bray, Berkshire, while an investigation was made.

The chef said experts believe a non-specific virus could be going around.

The chef had to cancel 450 bookings but hopes to reopen the restaurant tomorrow.

The restaurant was voted "the best place to eat on earth" by Restaurant magazine in 2005. It is currently second to Spain's El Bulli.

Yesterday the chef's spokesman said reports of sabotage were "highly unlikely" as cases of illness were "not sweeping, but sporadic".

"On a table of six, maybe only three people would get sick, so it could hardly be sabotage," the spokesman said.

Tests by the celebrity chef's own food safety consultants and environmental health officers from Windsor and Maidenhead Borough Council have so far failed to solve the mystery.

"We are waiting for the final test results to come back but all results so far have been negative," the spokesman added.

"It is highly unlikely that someone would be able to sabotage the food.

"He (Blumenthal] is well known for his precise, scientific concoctions which would be very hard to sabotage.

"All this leads us to believe that it (the health scare] has not come from the restaurant and we expect to be given the all- clear."

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