Here are the causes of the 5 mass food poisoning cases in S'pore between Oct & Dec 2018

Appalling practices that led to food poisoning.

Jonathan Lim | January 14, 2019, 07:13 PM

Food poisoning was in the spotlight in Singapore near the end of 2018 when several catering services and eateries here were hit by a spate of severe and widespread food poisoning incidents.

In particular, a 38-year-old man died after eating contaminated catered food from Spize Restaurant on Nov. 6, 2018.

The River Valley eatery was on Dec. 7 permanently shut down, and the authorities will also be taking its owners to court:

Spize wasn't the only culprit behind food contamination that poisoned hundreds of people here — a total of five mass food poisoning cases were reported between October and December 2018.

These involved Team Catering Pte Ltd, Tung Lok Catering, FoodTalks Caterer & Manufacturer, Spize Restaurant @ River Valley, as well as the Mandarin Orchard Hotel.

On Monday, Jan. 14, Senior Minister of State for Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor shared findings from the ministry's investigations into these cases in Parliament.

She said that there were no links found between the cases.

Circumstances leading to food poisoning cases

1) Spize Restaurant

Khor said the food poisoning here was caused by a "Salmonellosis outbreak of unusual severity" — in other words, the food prepared and served was "heavily contaminated".

Lapses were also found in the practices of the food handlers that led to the contamination of the ready-to-eat food and its environment. The handlers also appeared to have poor personal hygiene.

Spize was also found to have hired seven unregistered food handlers, and had even prepared food outside its licensed premises.

2) Team Catering Pte Ltd

Khor said in this case, lapses found include improper storage of knives and poor housekeeping.

She added that "pathogens were identified from the human stool samples (of those who were infected), including Clostridium Perfringens and enteropathogenic Escherichia coli".

Both pathogens are common causes of food poisoning.

3, 4) FoodTalks Caterer & Manufacturer / Tung Lok Catering

Khor said the authorities could not find the pathogens that caused the food poisoning.

However, she said that several food hygiene lapses including improper segregation between raw and ready-to-eat food in the same chiller compartment, no hand washing facilities, and cockroach infestations were found at their premises.

5) Mandarin Orchard Hotel

The food poisoning experienced by guests at the hotel was caused by "environmental contamination of the Grand Ballroom with norovirus", said Khor.

Norovirus is a common virus that causes gastroenteritis — inflammation of the stomach and intestines which leads to vomiting and diarrhoea.

The authorities found that there was improper cleaning of vomitus; also, the hotel's banquet servers continued to work while they were ill.

Licence termination, suspension, and other penalties

Khor shared that the National Environment Agency (NEA) had terminated the operating licence of Spize's River Valley restaurant permanently:

As for Tung Lok's catering arm and the affected kitchen of Mandarin Orchard Hotel, their respective licences were suspended until they "complied with the requirements imposed by NEA".

Khor added that NEA will be issuing a summons to FoodTalks for its lapses as well.

Top photo via [email protected] Valley Facebook page