The number of people who fell ill after eating at the Michelin-starred restaurant RiFF in Valencia has risen to 29, according to the regional health department. This figure includes the 46-year-old woman who died on Sunday morning after dining at the gourmet restaurant the previous night. Her husband and 12-year-old son also suffered from food poisoning.
Regional health chief Ana Barceló
As part of the investigation into the death, inspectors from Valencia’s regional health department have interviewed and conducted tests on the patrons who dined at the restaurant in the days before the woman fell mortally ill. So far, the heath inspectors have spoken with 75 people who ate at RiFF.
According to the regional health department, the 29 people had all dined at the restaurant between February 13 and 16, and suffered minor food-poisoning symptoms, mainly vomiting, which they quickly recovered from.
Public health officials inspected the restaurant on Monday, February 18, but did not find any problems that could have contributed to the food poisoning. Investigators also collected samples of ingredients and raw food products that were part of the menu and has passed them on to the National Toxicology Institute to be analyzed.
On Wednesday, regional health chief Ana Barceló said she could not confirm whether the sickness had been caused by the morel mushrooms that were on the restaurant’s tasting menu. “We will have to wait for the autopsy to be carried out on the woman before we can determine whether it was the ingestion of a foodstuff that directly caused her death, or whether it prompted a state that led to this fatal outcome, or if she had an existing condition.” She has called on the public to “be prudent and wait for the results of the tests.”
Forensic teams are working to determine whether the woman could have been poisoned by something she ate, or whether she may have choked on her own vomit. A courtroom in Valencia has opened an investigation into the woman’s death.
Closed to the public
In a statement, the owner of RiFF, Bernd H. Knöller, announced that the restaurant will remain closed until the cause of the food-poisoning outbreak is determined and “activities can resume with full assurances for the staff and the patrons.”
The owner said he has been cooperating with the regional health department on the investigation and pointed out that the inspection “showed that the restaurant complies with all sanitary regulations.” He added: “Regardless of what caused the situation, I want to convey my deep regret for what happened, and I hope all of the facts will be clarified shortly.”
English version by Melissa Kitson.