NEA reveals salmonella as the culprit behind recent Spize Restaurant gastroenteritis outbreak and shuts down outlet for good

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Spize Restaurant food/Youtube screengrab

On December 7, authorities from the National Environment Agency (NEA) revealed the culprit behind Spize Restaurant River Valley outlet’s massive gastroenteritis outbreak that killed one and affected more than 80 people – the big bad bacteria known as salmonella. After joint investigations with the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), the NEA has terminated the restaurant’s licence and shut down the outlet for good.

Security company Brink’s Singapore wanted to do something nice for their employees for Deepavali, so they called upon popular eating place Spize Restaurant in River Valley to cater the celebrations. What followed was completely unexpected – a huge outbreak of food poisoning that killed Sats officer Fadli Salleh on November 14 and affected more than 80 people to date, with dozens needing urgent hospitalisation.

After strict investigations by the NEA, MOH and AVA, several lapses were found in health and safety procedures at the Spize outlet at River Valley. Their operating licence was subsequently suspended on November 9 and has since been completely terminated.

The hygiene lapses originally discovered included the following:

1) leaving food uncovered in the refrigerator or chiller

2) storing knives for preparing food in a space between food preparation tables

3) not providing soap for washing hands

 

These lapses brought about salmonella bacteria, which affects the intestinal tract. Salmonella lives in animal and human intestines, is shed through faeces, and is normally spread through contaminated food and water.

The investigating authorities reported that they found salmonella bacteria on the handle of the door of a chilled room and in both raw and ready-to-eat food at the Spize River Valley outlet, specifically in samples of belacan egg fried rice, sambal belacan, raw chicken samples, kangkong (water spinach), and uncooked rice.

Faecal coliforms were also identified on a chopping board and knife used to prepare ready-to-eat-food and in samples provided of the belacan egg fried rice.

The authorities conducted a more thorough inspection on November 14, and they came up with a list of serious lapses in hygiene, food handling and food preparation, as reported by another media source.

Here is a list of the lapses they found:

1. Food was prepared in unhygienic areas outside the licensed kitchen area

2. Seven unregistered food handlers were identified

3. Poor personal hygiene and inadequate food preparation practices of the food handlers were noted

4. Dried salted fish, chicken floss and fish crackers that were supposed to be discarded after November 9 were not thrown out

5. Eggs that should have also been trashed were sent to another Spize outlet for use

 

In response to the grievous lapses in hygiene, another news source disclosed that Derek Ho, NEA’s director-general of environmental public health, commented on the utter lack of “minimum duty of care” at the restaurant to ensure meals were prepared safely.

“We are so angry and upset about this,” Ho said, noting that it was “really unbecoming” of a food establishment.

Ho said that the operators of the restaurant will certainly be taken to court for the “egregious” lapses in hygiene that cost the life of one and made more than 80 people fall ill.

Spize Restaurant in River Valley was last inspected by the NEA in October and was given a warning for not having enough covers for their trash bins, but no other lapses were noted at that time.

Spize co-owner Haresh Sabnani said that the company is making its own investigations into the incident.

Sabnani noted that other Spize outlets were also being inspected.

“We have engaged the services of a food hygiene consultant to identify any hygiene issues and to resolve them,” he said.