SINGAPORE: Authorities on Friday (Dec 14) said there was strong evidence of severe contamination of the Grand Ballroom at the Mandarin Orchard Hotel, where a food poisoning outbreak occurred earlier this month.
A total of 315 people fell ill after attending five separate events at the Grand Ballroom held between Dec 1 and 3.
After completing their investigations into outbreak at Mandarin Orchard Hotel, as well as those involving FoodTalks Caterer and Manufacturer and Tung Lok Millennium, the Ministry of Health, the National Environment Agency and the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore issued a joint statement on Friday saying that the outbreaks were not related.
On the incident at the Mandarin Orchard, the statement said that investigations suggest that this was an outbreak of norovirus gastroenteritis.
It added: "There is strong evidence of severe contamination of the Grand Ballroom with norovirus from poor environmental and personal hygiene practices.
"Norovirus was detected from the stool samples collected from five cases, three food handlers and 28 service staff, including banquet servers who reported to have continued working while they were ill."
NOROVIRUS ON UNUSED TABLE CLOTHS, CUTLERY, DRINKING GLASSES
The events that were affected by the Mandarin Orchard outbreak included at least one with food from a different source.
Food for a Dec 2 dinner to celebrate the Jewish festival Hanukkah had been prepared by a separate caterer, due to the guests' special dietary requirements.
In Friday's statement, authorities said that norovirus was found on multiple surfaces, including carpet, tables, chairs, unused table cloths, cutlery and drinking glasses.
Faecal coliforms were also detected in food samples, as well as Bacillus cereus from environmental swabs taken from other surfaces such as utensils and door handles.
Interviews that were conducted with the staff at Mandarin Orchard also revealed "improper cleaning of vomitus in the Grand Ballroom, and banquet servers had continued to work while ill", the statement said.
Joint inspections were conducted by the authorities on Dec 4, 5, 6 and 10.
The banquet kitchen serving the Grand Ballroom was suspended on Dec 5 and the hotel was instructed to close and conduct thorough cleaning and disinfection of the area.
"The suspension of the banquet kitchen and closure of the Grand Ballroom will continue to be in place until NEA is satisfied that the public health risks including the satisfactory disinfection of the premises, have been addressed," the statement said.
Among those who fell ill, 14 were hospitalised. All but one have since been discharged, and the remaining patient is in stable condition, said the statement.
In response to Channel NewsAsia's queries, Mandarin Orchard said it is doing all it can to ensure it thoroughly addresses any issues that led to the outbreak of gastroenteritis.
"Our team continues to step up efforts to ensure that all relevant personnel are trained in and observe proper personal hygiene and food handling practices, in addition to enforcing stringent standards of cleanliness and sanitation across all our food and beverage premises," said the hotel.
[Source: Channel NewsAsia - "Mandarin Orchard food poisoning: 'Strong evidence of severe contamination', say authorities"]