Alarming lapses at Spize caused acute food poisoning outbreak that killed father of two: Coroner

The operating licence of Spize River Valley will be terminated with immediate effect after the food poisoning incident. (Photo: Jeremy Long)

SINGAPORE: "Alarming lapses" in food hygiene at Spize restaurant caused an acute outbreak of food poisoning that killed a father of two and landed 46 others in hospital, the state coroner said in her case findings on Friday (Aug 23).

Mohamad Fadli Mohd Saleh, a 38-year-old employee of ground-handling firm SATS, had died in hospital last year of sepsis and multi-organ failure following acute gastroenteritis.

Mr Fadli had eaten a bento set catered from Spize restaurant by his company for a Deepavali celebration on Nov 6, 2018, and began feeling sick that night.

He developed a fever of 39.9 degrees Celsius, along with diarrhoea, nausea and body aches, and saw a doctor the next day, but his condition worsened and he died after a heart attack a week later on Nov 14.

Mr Fadli was one of 47 people hospitalised, and among 36 who had tested positive for salmonella.

In all, 73 out of 211 people who ate the food from Spize fell ill.

State Coroner Kamala Ponnampalam on Friday described the many lapses in food hygiene uncovered in investigations by the Ministry of Health (MOH), National Environment Agency (NEA) and the Singapore Food Agency (SFA).

"The joint investigations by the agencies uncovered several alarming lapses in the food handling and food preparation methods which directly contributed to the outbreak of acute gastroenteritis," said the coroner.

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Strains of salmonella were found on the ready-to-eat bento sets at Spize's River Valley Road outlet, where the food was prepared.

The bacteria was also found on raw food items and commonly touched surfaces such as a door handle leading to a cold room and the cold room rack at the restaurant.

"This was suggestive of cross-contamination with raw meat, borne by the food handlers," said the coroner. 

"There was also faecal matter detected in the ready-to-eat food (belacan egg fried rice) and on the kitchen tools like the chopping board and knife used in the chicken rice preparation which points to poor hygiene practices, either in the handling of unclean raw meat, or in poor personal hygiene."

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Seven of the 34 food handlers w