SINGAPORE: Salmonella 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 the door handle of a cold room, the Ministry of Health, National Environment Agency (NEA) and Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said at a joint media briefing.
Faecal coliforms were also detected in samples of belacan egg fried rice, as well as on a chopping board and knife used for ready-to-eat food.
Investigations found that the outbreak of salmonella gastroenteritis was “unusually severe”, suggesting that the food was likely to be heavily contaminated, the agencies said.
The operating licence of Spize River Valley will be terminated with immediate effect, they said.
The other Spize restaurants – located at Bedok and Rifle Range Road – have been allowed to continue operating after checks by NEA found no evidence to link the salmonella outbreak to these outlets.
Seven food poisoning incidents were found to be linked to Spize River Valley, involving 82 people who had eaten food from the outlet between Nov 6 and 9. A total of 47 people were hospitalised.
The outlet was suspended on Nov 9 after the authorities found several hygiene lapses, including leaving ready-to-eat food uncovered in a chiller, not providing soap for hand-washing (the soap dispenser was faulty) and slotting knives for preparing ready-to-eat food in a gap between 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. The 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". There were seven unregistered food handlers, food had been prepared outside the licensed kitchen area and food handlers had "poor personal hygiene and food preparation practices", they said.
They found that eggs that were supposed to be discarded after the suspension order had been dispatched to the Spize outlet at Temasek Club for use.
Unlabelled ready-to-eat salted fish, chicken floss and fish crackers were also found despite the restaurant having been ordered to discard these items.
NO MINIMUM DUTY OF CARE
There was no minimum duty of care at the restaurant to ensure meals were prepared safely, NEA's director-general of environmental public health Derek