Top Michelin-starred restaurant closed until further notice after customer dies
A woman has tragically died after eating at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Spain, local news outlets have reported.
María Jesús Fernández Calvo, a 46-year-old who worked as an optician, was one of several people to eat mushrooms at RiFF, a restaurant in Valencia, Spain which was awarded its first Michelin star in 2009. Visiting the restaurant with her husband and her young son (who is 10 years old) to celebrate her husband's birthday, Calvo ordered a rice and morchella fungi dish off the menu.
But Calvo suffered from vomiting and diarrhoea as she returned home for her meal, and sadly died the morning after. Her surviving husband and son also ate the dish, and were two of several people who said they fell ill after eating the mushrooms, but were able to recover from their symptoms.
Morchella fungi - also known as true morels - cannot be eaten raw and have to be prepared and cooked fully to be eaten safely, thanks to a toxin known as hydrazine.
Following Calvo's death, the immediate concern was that the mother and wife had accidentally eaten 'false morels', which look extremely similar to true morels but are lethal to humans, although this is yet to be confirmed.
Spanish media outlet El Pais have said that RiFF will remain closed until the cause of Calvo's death can be confirmed, and Regional health chief Ana Barceló urged people not to get carried away, saying that an initial inspection of the restaurant was "normal".
"We will have to wait... before we can determine whether it was the ingestion of a food that directly caused her death, or whether it prompted a state that led to this fatal outcome," she explained.
"Analytical tests will now be carried out on the food products...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 food that directly caused her death, or whether it prompted a state that led to this fatal outcome, or if she had an existing condition."
Meanwhile, Bernd H. Knöller, owner and head chef at RiFF, issued a statement following Calvo's death expressing his "deep regret" for a customer's passing, adding that he was cooperating fully with the Department of Health, and underlining his commitment to finding out what happened before he reopened the restaurant.
"I want to convey my deep regret for what happened, hoping that soon all these facts can be clarified. I have made the decision that the restaurant remains closed until the causes of what happened are established and the activity can be resumed with full guarantees for both staff and all customers."
Samples of the ingredients of the meal that Calvo ate, as well as food served to other customers at RiFF that day, will be sent to the National Toxicology Institute in Spain for further testing.
An autopsy is yet to confirm whether María Jesús Fernández Calvo died from poisoning, or whether she choked on her own vomit.