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07/12/18: Salmonella behind Spize mass food poisoning incident

spize-river-valleySalmonella bacteria found at a Spize outlet was behind a mass food poisoning incident that left more than 80 people ill and caused dozens to be hospitalised, the authorities said on Friday (Dec 7).

The bacteria was found in both raw and ready-to-eat food at the restaurant’s River Valley outlet – in samples of belacan egg fried rice, sambal belacan, raw chicken samples and kangkong (water spinach) and uncooked rice.

Salmonella was also found on a door handle of a cold room, the Ministry of Health, (MOH), National Environment Agency (NEA) and the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said at a joint media briefing.

Investigations found that the outbreak of salmonella gastroenteritis was “unusually severe”, suggesting that the food was likely to be heavily contaminated.

The operating licence of Spize River Valley will be terminated with immediate effect, the agencies added.

A total of seven food poisoning incidents were found to be linked to Spize, involving 82 people who had eaten food from the River Valley outlet between Nov 6 and 9. Forty-seven people were hospitalised.

The outlet was suspended on Nov 7 after the authorities found several hygiene lapses, including leaving ready-to-eat food uncovered in a chiller, not providing soap for hand-washing (soap dispenser was faulty) and slotting knives for preparing ready-to-eat food in the gap between the food preparation tables.

Mr Fadli Saleh, an auxiliary police officer with ground-handling firm SATS, was one of those hospitalised after consuming food supplied by the restaurant. He died on Nov 14. His cause of death is pending and it has been classified as a coroner’s case.

On the same day, the authorities conducted a second joint inspection of the restaurant, where they discovered “severe irregularities”. Seven unregistered food handlers were identified, food was prepared outside the licensed kitchen area and food handlers had “poor personal hygiene and food preparation practices”.

The update from the agencies comes amid other large-scale incidents of food poisoning. Most recently, banquet operations at Mandarin Orchard Singapore’s main ballroom were suspended after 175 people fell ill with food poisoning and nine were hospitalised.

On Nov 23, 190 people fell ill with symptoms of gastroenteritis after consuming food prepared by restaurant group TungLok’s catering arm.

On Nov 26, more than 130 students and teachers fell ill after consuming food prepared by FoodTalks Caterer and Manufacturer while attending a children’s camp.

The NEA and AVA will step up checks on food establishments during the festive season, they said.

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