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By Johan Ahlander
COPENHAGEN, March 8 (Reuters) - Danish restaurant Noma, crowned the world's best restaurant three years running in one poll, on Friday apologised after 63 guests fell ill with sickness and diarrhoea after visiting the haute cuisine establishment.
According to the Danish health authorities, the guests fell ill during a five-day period in February and the outbreak could have come from a sick kitchen staff employee.
Health inspectors criticised the restaurant for not alerting authorities soon enough and for not taking proper action after the employee was struck ill upon returning home after work.
The two-Michelin-star restaurant recognised in a report that internal procedures had not been good enough and said an e-mail from the employee reporting his sickness had not been seen.
"We are in the business of making people happy and taking care of our guests, so this is the worst thing that could happen to us," Noma managing director Peter Kreiner told Reuters.
"Since the outbreak we have worked closely with the health authorities to get to the bottom of it and find the source of infection.
"We are extremely sorry about all of this and I have personally been in dialogue with all the guests who were affected and discussed compensation for them," he said, adding there was never any danger of the restaurant being closed down.
Food poisoning can have a major impact on top-end restaurants.
In 2009 British chef Heston Blumenthal received negative headlines and was forced to close his three-star restaurant The Fat Duck for around three weeks after hundreds of guests became ill.
Noma, known for experimental ingredients such as ants and fermented grasshoppers, has been voted winner of The S. Pellegrino and Acqua Panna World's 50 Best Restaurants in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
Guests flock to the Danish restaurant from all over the world and pay around 5,000 Danish crowns ($880) for a 12-course set menu for two including appetisers, treats to finish, wine pairing and a tour of the kitchen to meet some of the 50 chefs.
When the restaurant releases monthly bookings, two-seater tables are usually snapped up in less than an hour.
($1 = 5.6981 Danish crowns) (Editing by Mike Collett-White)