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Chef Sentenced to 3 Months in Jail After Serving Wedding Guests Food Infected with Norovirus

An Italian court sentenced Marco Sacco and his restaurant manager Raffaella Marchetti on charges of culpable negligence and trading harmful foodstuffs

<p>Getty</p> Stock image of Lake Mergozzo in Italy

Getty

Stock image of Lake Mergozzo in Italy

A Michelin star chef in Italy has been sentenced to nearly three months in jail after serving raw clams infected with the norovirus to over 50 guests at a wedding.

An Italian court handed down a prison sentence of two months and 20 days with a conditional suspension to chef Marco Sacco, 59, and his restaurant manager Raffaella Marchetti for culpable negligence and trading harmful foodstuffs, according to U.K. newspaper The Sunday Times, Irish Star and Italian news outlet La Repubblica.

The court also ordered them to pay over $21,000 (€20,000) in damages to the couple, their guests and to cover legal fees, per the The Sunday Times.

The ruling was related to a wedding reception held in 2021 at the chef’s Piccolo Lago di Verbania restaurant — which boasts two Michelin stars — alongside Lake Maggiore in northern Italy.

Related: ​​241 People Sickened in Norovirus Outbreak Linked to North Carolina Sushi Restaurant 

During the festivities, the wedding guests were served a raw clam risotto. After their meal, several people who ate the dish complained that they began experiencing symptoms like nausea, vomiting, dysentery and abdominal cramps and some were forced to seek treatment at the hospital, per the outlets.

The incident was investigated by Italian police who determined that the guests had been infected with the norovirus — which had been found in the raw clams in the risotto dish, per the outlets.

Related: What to Know About the Highly Contagious Norovirus — and How to Avoid It

The norovirus, also known as the “stomach bug,” is a contagious virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The CDC noted that people can get the norovirus from eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with it or having direct contact with someone with norovirus.

In court, Sacco argued that his supplier should be held accountable for the incident as the clams served in the risotto dish had been contaminated with the norovirus prior to entering his kitchen. The clams had been imported in sealed packets from an Italian company from France, according to The Sunday Times.

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He also insisted to the court that food safety procedures were followed closely and claimed that he had previously served more than 3,000 dishes that were similar using the same supplier at his restaurant, per Sky News.

The chef indicated that he plans to appeal the court’s verdict and continue business. He told the Corriere della Sera newspaper, per the The Sunday Times, “Next week we will reopen after the winter break here on the lake. We have a spectacular new menu.”

Chef Igles Corelli from Italy's Gambero Rosso Academy, told the Times that the case has put a spotlight on serving raw foods like clams, tartare and carpaccio, which he noted “are always problematic,” and said that restaurants should be “wary of running the risk” when serving dishes like those in the future.

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