VALENCIA, Spain – Health officials in the Spanish city of Valencia were working on Wednesday to establish whether a mushroom dish served at a high-end restaurant was linked to the death of a customer who fell ill shortly after eating there over the weekend.
Ana Barcelo, the regional health minister in Valencia, eastern Spain, said she could not yet confirm whether the edible fungi on the tasting menu at RiFF, a restaurant boasting a Michelin star, was linked to the death of a 46-year-old, who succumbed to what appeared to be severe food poisoning early Sunday a day after a dining out with her husband and son, who also became ill but since recovered.
“We must wait for the autopsy being performed on the woman to determine whether direct cause of death was the intake of food, or whether it provoked a state that led to the fatal outcome or whether she had any previous health issues,” Barcelo said.
Investigative teams have been collecting samples of produce served at the restaurant for analysis at the National Institute of Toxicology.
Furthermore, the team of regional health officials charged with carrying out the investigation has so far interviewed 17 others who had eaten at the upscale restaurant in the three days leading up to Saturday, when the family fell ill and found that 14 reported symptoms consistent with food poisoning.
The woman, who was originally from the city of Leon, in northern Spain, worked at an optician’s store in the Mediterranean city.
RiFF, which is located just outside of Valencia’s historic center, closed its doors while the regional health ministry carried out its investigation, owner and chef, Bernd H. Knöller, said in a statement.
He said the restaurant had complied with health and safety standards.
“Regardless of the cause of the situation, I want to convey my deep condolences for what has happened and I hope that all the facts will be clarified shortly,” he said.
His restaurant this year celebrated its 10th anniversary as a Michelin-starred venue.
The German-born chef is a well-known figure in Valencia’s culinary scene.
Spain has established a great reputation for the quality of its high-end restaurants with eateries such as Can Roca following in the footsteps of the now-closed elBulli as magnets for wealthy food connoisseurs from across the world.
Investigators said two of eight staff members interviewed in the probe so far said they were not made aware of any incident during their shift.
Around eight other people dined at the restaurant at the same time as the affected family.
The family reported their food poisoning symptoms with their local doctor on Sunday morning.
They all had cases of vomiting and diarrhea.
While her family recovered, the woman died in her house early Sunday, officials said.