NEA terminates Spize restaurant's River Valley outlet licences after death of Sats officer

The National Environment Agency (NEA) has terminated the operating licenses of Spize restaurant in River Valley Road with immediate effect, after an Sats officer died of food poisoning on Nov 6.

The NEA had found food hygiene lapses of "egregious nature", which led to the termination.

According to The Straits Times, enforcement action against the restaurant for the lapses will also be taken by the agency.

This includes pressing charges in court, after the agency found an "unusually severe" salmonella outbreak in its investigations into seven food poisoning incidents between Nov 6 and Nov 9.

On Nov 14, a joint inspection by the NEA, Ministry of Health (MOH) and Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) found lapses such as having seven unregistered food handlers and preparing food outside the licensed kitchen area.

They also observed poor personal hygiene and food preparation practices among the food handlers.

A week before that (Nov 7), a joint inspection was carried out which led to a suspension of the outlet's licences.

It found lapses such as leaving ready-to-eat food uncovered in a chiller, not providing soap for hand-washing, and slotting knives for preparing ready-to-eat food in the gap between food preparation tables.

A joint statement by the MOH, NEA and AVA today (Dec 7) said the authorities found seven food poisoning incidents linked to the outlet between Nov 6 and Nov 9, with 82 reported cases out of 221 people who consumed food prepared there.

The cases reported include that of Sats officer Fadli Salleh, 38, who fell ill and died after eating a bento box prepared for a Deepavali celebration organised by security company Brink's Singapore, which as held on its premises at Kaki Bukit on Nov 6.

The joint statement said that the cause of death is pending and has been classified as a coroner's case. It is unclear what food Mr Salleh ate.

Salmonella typhimurium, a commonly occurring bacterium, was found in investigations of blood and stool samples from those who fell ill, the raw and ready-to-eat food, and environmental samples from the outlet.

The joint statement said they were closely related by genetic analysis, suggesting they are from the same source.

"The investigations found that the outbreak of salmonella gastroenteritis was unusually severe, suggesting that the food was likely to be heavily contaminated," added the statement.

In the ready-to-eat food, the salmonella bacterium was found in belacan egg fried rice.

It was also found in kang kong and raw chicken samples.

The popular supper haunt Spize first opened in 1997, has four outlets.

The other three are in Simpang Bedok, Rifle Range Road and Siglap.

The statement said that NEA has checked these other outlets "as a precaution", and found no evidence to link the current outbreak to them.

They have been allowed to continue operations.

The incident was among a series of other food poisoning incidents last month that affected more than 400 people.

After eating packed meals prepared by FoodTalks Caterer & Manufacturer on Nov 26, 131 Kindergarten 2 children and teachers fell ill.

Tunglok Catering, the catering arm of the Tunglok restaurant group, had its licence at the Max Atria at Singapore Expo suspended on Nov 23 after 190 people reported falling sick after eating food at a Singapore Civil Defence Force event.

The most recent incident reported saw 175 people falling ill with food poisoning after attending four separate events at Mandarin Orchard Hotel's grand ballroom between Dec 1 and Dec 3.

The NEA and AVA reiterated today, that they are stepping up their checks on food establishments in the year-end festive season, due to a higher number of people dining out and ordering catered food.

Read the full story at The Straits Times.

The Straits Times

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