SINGAPORE - Children and staff at five more PCF Sparkletots pre-schools have reported symptoms of food poisoning, bringing the total number of cases to 222 as of 4pm on Thursday (March 28).
The previous tally was 184 at 4pm on Wednesday, up from 109 previously.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) also announced that there were another 16 cases at Plan Student Care Centre on Friday, bringing the total number of cases to 238.
The 12 PCF pre-schools and Plan Student Care Centre were all served by Kate's Catering, which has been suspended.
Of those affected, 14 remain in hospital but are in stable condition, while 11 have been discharged.
The five latest PCF centres affected are at Sengkang Central Block 231, Punggol Coast Block 326, Paya Lebar Block 221 and Toa Payoh Central Blocks 79B and 146A.
On Friday, PCF chief executive Victor Bay said:
"We are taking this matter seriously and our priority remains to ensure that our children receive the necessary medical care and attention, and to provide the relevant support for all affected parties."
He said PCF is in close contact with the affected parents and is monitoring the condition of the children, adding that principals, teachers, senior management of PCF and he himself have been visiting the children in hospitals and extending help to the families.
"The children who are still in hospital currently are in stable condition and we look forward to welcoming them back to school eventually," he said.
The pre-school operator will continue to assist the authorities with their investigations, he added.
PCF has made temporary arrangements for an in-house cook to provide meals to the affected pre-schools.
The authorities were notified of the first cluster of cases last Friday (March 22) and conducted an inspection of the caterer's premises on the same day.
Additional clusters of cases were reported on Monday, prompting the National Environment Agency (NEA) to instruct Kate's Catering to suspend its operations with effect from Tuesday, pending investigations by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA), MOH and NEA.
Food handlers were sent for stool screening, and food and environmental samples were taken for testing as part of the investigations
When contacted by ST, a spokesman for Kate's Catering said it was working with the respective authorities.
In its update on Friday (March 29), MOH said that food poisoning or food-borne illness often causes vomiting and diarrhoea which may lead to dehydration, especially in young children and the elderly.
It is important for affected people to rehydrate by drinking plenty of fluids and seek medical attention if necessary, the ministry said.
In an earlier response to queries on Wednesday, the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) said it was working with the authorities to investigate the outbreak of gastroenteritis at the pre-schools.
It added that along with MOH, NEA and AVA, ECDA had issued a food hygiene advisory to all pre-schools on March 7.
A parent who only wanted to be known as Madam Tan, 34, said: “It’s not really their fault, we can’t really blame the school.”
Her two-year-old, who attends the PCF centre at Block 270 Sengkang Central, had experienced vomitting, diarrhoea and fever of up to 38.5 deg C, but recovered in a day.
Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC MP Teo Ser Luck told The Straits Times on Friday: “I am very concerned about this issue, especially since this is not the first food poisioning case to occur this year. A thorough investigation must be conducted, and a good explanation must be given to all parents."
PCF is taking all precautions to uphold food hygiene and implement further safety measures, he added.
[Source: The Straits Times - "Food poisoning cases jump to 238 as Plan Student Care Centre and 5 more PCF Sparkletots centres hit"]