Authorities in Singapore have suspended the license of a caterer because almost 30 people became sick after eating food prepared by the business.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) and Singapore Food Agency (SFA) are investigating reports earlier this month of gastroenteritis affecting 29 people who developed symptoms after eating food prepared by Taj Catering, which is owned by Singapore Fast Food Pte Ltd. One person was hospitalized but has since been discharged.

A MOH and SFA investigation found hygiene lapses and the latter agency has suspended the license of the caterer until further notice. The agencies did not say what food or agent caused illness.

All food handlers working at the suspended premises must re-attend and pass a basic food hygiene course before they can resume work. Food hygiene officers at Taj Catering are required to re-attend and pass a food hygiene officer course before they can resume their duties.

The firm is required to clean and sanitize the premises, including equipment and utensils.

SFA officials said the agency would not hesitate to take action against anyone in violation of the Environmental Public Health Act. They also advised the public who come across poor hygiene practices in food establishments to call a contact center with details for follow-up investigations.

Suspension lifted and festive warning
Meanwhile, SFA lifted the suspension of Mum’s Kitchen Catering Pte. Ltd. and its subsidiary, Cherish Delights Pte. Ltd. last month.

The operating licenses of Mum’s Kitchen Catering and Cherish Delights were suspended on Sept. 10 and 11 respectively after the Ministry of Health and SFA were notified of two separate outbreaks of gastroenteritis involving 40 people who consumed food from the firms between Aug. 31 and Sept. 4. Three people were hospitalized but have since been discharged.

Both companies disposed of all ready-to-eat, thawed and perishable food, and cleaned and sanitized their premises, including equipment and utensils. They also submitted plans on enhanced food safety regimes, including ensuring staff practice good food hygiene and proper food preparation at all times.

SFA officials said no hygiene lapses were found during inspections of both premises following the outbreaks and an investigation into the cause of illness was ongoing.

Finally, the SFA has reminded food operators and consumers to practice good food, personal and environmental hygiene ahead of the festive season.

A significant number of gastroenteritis incidents tend to occur during October to March because more consumers dine out, order catered food, or purchase cooked or ready-to-eat food for celebrations.

The Ministry of Health estimated that 69 percent of gastroenteritis outbreaks in Singapore were due to consuming contaminated food items.

SFA is also working with representatives from the Association of Catering Professionals Singapore (ACAPS), Restaurant Association of Singapore (RAS) and Singapore Hotel Association (SHA) on the importance of food hygiene and safety.

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