SINGAPORE,. Popular eatery Spize will have to shut down its River Valley outlet after its licence was terminated, following investigations which revealed an “unusually severe” outbreak of gastroenteritis from “heavily contaminated” food.
The National Environment Agency (NEA), Ministry of Health (MOH) and Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) said in a joint statement today that there was “strong evidence” of severe contamination from poor hygiene and food handling practices.
NEA will be terminating Spize’s operating licences for its River Valley outlet with immediate effect, and will be taking enforcement action for its “egregious” lapses.
Spize’s other outlets at Rifle Range Road, Bedok, and Siglap will still be allowed to operate, as there was no evidence that the incident at River Valley was linked to other locations.
On November 9, the authority suspended the outlet’s licence after 82 cases of food poisoning were reported by people who had consumed food from the restaurant on seven occasions between November 6 and 9. Seven cases were found to be linked to Spize.
Forty-seven people were hospitalised, and 38-year-old Fadli Salleh, an officer from airport services and food solutions provider Sats, died on November 14 at the Sengkang General Hospital. He was one of more than 72 people who fell ill after eating bento boxes prepared by Spize’s River Valley outlet for an event on November 6. The other individuals have since recovered.
The NEA, MOH and AVA were first alerted of the cases on November 7, and conducted a joint inspection the same day.
What was wrong
The authorities found several hygiene lapses, including:
• Not providing soap for hand-washing
• Leaving ready-to-eat food uncovered in a chiller
• Slotting knives for preparing ready-to-eat food in the gaps between food preparation tables
A second inspection conducted on November 14 found further lapses:
• Seven unregistered food handlers were identified
• Food was prepared outside the licensed kitchen area
• Poor personal hygiene and food preparation practices of the food handlers
What the agencies flagged from the November 14 investigations:
• Dried salted fish, chicken floss and fish crackers were supposed to be discarded after its licence was suspended, but that was not done
• Eggs that were meant to be discarded were dispatched to another Spize outlet for use
Laboratory investigations revealed that the Salmonella Typhimurium, a commonly-occurring bacterium, was found to be “closely related to each other by genetic analysis”.
This meant it came from the same source, the agencies said today.
Recent spate of food poisoning cases
In the wake of the Spize River Valley incident, Singapore was hit by another three food poisoning cases.
• On November 23, 190 people fell ill after eating food prepared by TungLok Catering for the Singapore Civil Defence Force’s public exhibition at the Singapore Expo.
• On November 27, 131 people — including kindergarten students and teachers — were hit by gastroenteritis, after consuming food prepared by FoodTalks Caterer and Manufacturer located at Shimei East Kitchen along Bedok North Street 5.
• High-end hotel Mandarin Orchard Singapore suspended operations at its Grand Ballroom on Wednesday after 175 people developed symptoms such as diarrhoea and vomiting, and nine were hospitalised. — TODAY