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Spize food poisoning: 6 types of pathogens found

(Clockwise from top left) Salmonella typhimurium, Bacillus cereus, Campylobacter jejuni and Norovirus were among the pathogens found during an investigation at Spize River Valley premises. (Photos: Wikimedia Commons)

SINGAPORE: Mass food poisoning at a Spize outlet last month left more than 80 people ill and caused dozens to be hospitalised.

One of those hospitalised, Mr Fadli Saleh, died on Nov 14.

Investigation results on the food poisoning incidents released on Friday (Dec 7) by the Ministry of Health (MOH), the National Environment Agency (NEA) and the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) revealed several lapses in hygiene at the Spize River Valley premises.

Food that was marked for discarding was, in one case, sent to an outlet for use, and ready-to-eat food was left uncovered and unlabelled.

The food handlers were also found to have poor personal hygiene and food preparation practices.

Of the 82 hospitalised, 36 people were tested positive for salmonella, authorities said.

Six different types of pathogens were detected from food samples, food handlers and the restaurant, with three types found in belacan egg fried rice alone.

Here's what they are and where they were found.



Salmonella typhimurium (red) invading cultured human cells. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Rocky Mountain Laboratories)

What is it? Salmonella infection, caused by salmonella bacteria, is caused by contaminated water or food, or the ingestion of raw or undercooked meat, poultry, or eggs. In this case, it was the main cause of illness among those who ingested food from Spize River Valley.

Where was it found? Salmonella typhimurium was found in belacan egg fried rice, raw chicken samples, kang kong, a door handle leading to a cold room and on a cold room rack. Salmonella albany was detected in sambal belacan.

Symptoms Nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhoea, fever, headaches and blood in stool.


What is it? Faecal coliforms are bacteria found in faeces.

Where was it found? Faecal coliforms were found in belacan egg fried rice, a chopping board and knife used for ready-to-eat food.

Symptoms Ingestion of such bacteria may not be immediately harmful, but their presence indicates a high risk of other harmful pathogens.



Bacillus cereus as seen through an electron microscope. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Mogana Das Murtey/Patchamuthu Ramasamy)

What is it? Consumption of Bacillus cereus and the toxins it produces results in an illness nicknamed "fried rice syndrome" due to the first recognised outbreaks being linked to fried rice.

The heat from cooking stimulates the bacteria to reproduce, and leaving the food at room temperatures allows the bacteria to incubate. Reheating the food briefly does not kill Bacillus cereus nor does it neutralise the toxins it produces.

Where was it found? Bacillus cereus was found in belacan egg fried rice and uncooked rice.

Symptoms Diarrhoea, stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting.



Norovirus particles in faeces. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Graham Beards)

What is it? Norovirus is known to be highly contagious and spreads through contaminated food and surfaces, especially in close quarters such as cruise ships.

Where was it found?

One food handler tested positive for norovirus.

Symptoms Diarrhoea, stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting.



Campylobacter jejuni as seen through an electron microscope. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/De Wood)

What is it?

Campylobacter jejuni can be found in raw and under-cooked poultry, unpasteurised milk, and contaminated water. It is also commonly found in animal faeces.

Where was it found? One food handler tested positive for Campylobacter jejuni.

Symptoms Diarrhoea, stomach cramps, nausea, fever and vomiting.

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