The operating license of a restaurant in Singapore linked to more than 80 Salmonella cases and one death has been terminated by authorities.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said the action against Spize Restaurant at River Valley Road has been taken with immediate effect and it will be taking enforcement measures against the licensee. The agency also checked other outlets of the same chain. So far, there is no evidence to link the outbreak to these other sites and they have been allowed to continue operations.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) and Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) investigations found the outbreak of Salmonella was unusually severe with more than half of cases being hospitalized suggesting the food was heavily contaminated. It updated a mid-November announcement when the case count was below 50 and the pathogen responsible was not identified.

Seven food poisoning incidents were linked to Spize Restaurant, involving 82 people who had eaten there between Nov. 6 and 9. Forty-seven patients were hospitalized. One person died, but the cause of death is pending. No cases linked to other Spize outlets were reported.

Salmonella Typhimurium was isolated from clinical samples of some affected cases, raw and ready-to-eat food and environmental samples from the site. All of these isolates were closely related by genetic analysis, suggesting they are from the same source. There was also other bacterial contamination in RTE foods and surfaces that came into contact with RTE food.

An inspection by NEA, MOH and AVA on Nov. 7 found several serious hygiene lapses. These included leaving ready-to-eat food uncovered in a chiller, not providing soap for hand-washing and slotting knives for preparing RTE food in the gap between food preparation tables. The restaurant’s operating licenses were suspended following the inspection.

A second joint inspection at the premises on Nov. 14 and interviews with the licensee and food handlers identified irregularities such as seven unregistered food handlers; food prepared outside the licensed kitchen area and poor personal hygiene and preparation practices of the food handlers.

Hotel investigation
The NEA, MOH and AVA are also investigating gastroenteritis cases linked to four separate events at the Grand Ballroom at Mandarin Orchard Hotel between Dec. 1 and 3.

As of Dec. 5, 175 cases were reported to have developed symptoms of gastroenteritis and nine were hospitalized. Investigations include collecting food and environmental samples for testing and sending food handlers for stool screening.

NEA suspended the banquet kitchen serving the ballroom at the hotel and told it to dispose of ready-to-eat food, thawed and perishable items and thoroughly clean and sanitize its premises including equipment, utensils, work surfaces and toilets. The Grand Ballroom will also be closed for clean-up and disinfection. These measures will be in place until NEA is satisfied public health risks have been addressed.

There are no cases linked to other food and beverage premises in Mandarin Orchard Hotel. Mandarin Orchard Singapore said it was cooperating with NEA, MOH, AVA and the Public Utilities Board.

“We are completely distraught over the reported cases of food poisoning among our banquet guests, and we continue to reach out to those affected so that we can render every possible support and assistance,” the hotel said in a statement on its Facebook page.

“While we await results of the investigation from relevant authorities, hotel workers that handled food during the relevant banquet events have been temporarily relieved of their duties until they have completed all necessary medical tests and are cleared by relevant authorities. During the period of investigation, the hotel will also cease serving raw food prepared from our banquet kitchens.”

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