A caterer in Singapore has had its food hygiene grade cut following a link to a foodborne Illness outbreak.

A total of 52 people reported having gastroenteritis symptoms after eating food provided by Stamford Catering in early March. One person was hospitalized but has since been discharged, and all have recovered, according to public health officials.

An inspection by the Ministry of Health and Singapore Food Agency (SFA) at the catering facility was done on March 5. A high bacterial load was detected in food and environmental samples, which could have contributed to the outbreak.

The SFA said this indicates poor personal and food hygiene practices. The agency also found hygiene lapses such as poor housekeeping of appliances. SFA will take enforcement action for the problems found and the failed food sample.

Stamford Catering has since rectified the problems and improved upkeep and maintenance of premises and equipment, according to officials.

SFA adjusted the caterer’s food hygiene grade to “C” effective July 9. It will be reviewed in 12 months. Until then the agency will keep the premises under surveillance.

Changing system and other outbreaks

Currently, all food retail establishments are graded A, B, C or D annually based on a snapshot assessment. This system is scheduled to be replaced by the Food Hygiene Recognition Scheme (FHRS) in late 2020 to encourage firms to practice good hygiene at all times and be consistent.

With the new system, food retail sites with two or more years of a good record in food hygiene will get a bronze rating. Those with five to nine years will receive a silver rating. Gold ratings will be given to sites with 10 or more years of good performance.

SFA reminded food operators to adhere to good food hygiene and safety processes. Infection prevention practices such as washing hands before handling food can reduce incidence of gastroenteritis when adopted by everyone, including the industry and public.

Last month, SFA downgraded the rating of Chilli Api Catering also because of a food poisoning incident.

A total of 24 people reported having gastroenteritis symptoms after consuming food provided by the caterer in December 2018. SFA lowered the firm’s food hygiene grade to “C” effective June 18 and continuing for 12 months.

Pro*3 Institutional Catering also saw its food hygiene grade drop to “C” after a different outbreak.

A total of 21 people reported gastroenteritis symptoms after having food provided by the company in March. The adjusted grade was applied June 17 and continues for 12 months.

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