NEA shuts down Spize at River Valley for hygiene lapses in fatal food poisoning incident

Staff Writer, Singapore
·Editorial Team
Spize Restaurant at River Valley (FILE PHOTO: Yahoo News Singapore)
Spize Restaurant at River Valley (FILE PHOTO: Yahoo News Singapore)

Asian fusion restaurant Spize will have to shut down its River Valley branch, after the National Environment Agency (NEA) terminated its licence with immediate effect on Friday (7 December), following last month’s mass food poisoning incident which left one dead.

NEA will be taking enforcement action against the restaurant for the lapses, including pressing charges in court.

A joint statement by NEA, the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) on Friday said that there was “strong evidence” of severe contamination from poor hygiene and food handling practices.

Two inspections found many hygiene lapses

The three authorities first did a joint inspection on the premises on 7 November, a day after the first food poisoning cases were reported. They found several hygiene lapses, including: Not providing soap for hand-washing, leaving ready-to-eat food uncovered in a chiller, and slotting knives for preparing ready-to-eat food being placed in the gaps between food preparation tables.

A second joint inspection on 14 November found more lapses, such as having seven unregistered food handlers and preparing food outside the licensed kitchen area. There were also poor personal hygiene and food preparation practices observed among the food handlers.

A commonly-occurring bacterium, Salmonella Typhimurium, was found in investigations from blood and stool samples from those who fell ill, as well as from the raw and ready-to-eat food as well as environmental samples from the outlet. They were closely related by genetic analysis, suggesting they are from the same source, said the joint statement.

“The investigations found that the outbreak of Salmonella gastroenteritis was unusually severe, suggesting that the food was likely to be heavily contaminated,” added the statement.

Other Spize outlets allowed to operate

Spize’s other outlets at Rifle Range Road, Bedok, and Siglap will still be allowed to operate. The NEA has checked these other outlets “as a precaution”, and have found no evidence to link the current outbreak to them.

Between 6 and 9 November, 82 cases of gastroenteritis – inflammation of the stomach and intestines which causes vomiting and diarrhoea – were reported amid seven food poisoning incidents at the Spize restaurant branch.

The fatal case involved Sats officer Fadli Salleh, 38, who had eaten a bento box prepared for a Deepavali celebration organised on 6 November at security company Brink’s Singapore’s Kaki Bukit premises. The cause of death is pending and has been classified as a coroner’s case, said the joint statement.

Over 500 affected by food poisoning incidents

The incident was the first of a spate of food poisoning cases in the past month, which affected more than 500 people.

On 23 November, 190 people fell ill after eating food from TungLok Catering at a Singapore Civil Defence Force event at Max Atria@Singapore Expo. None of the 190 affected were hospitalised.

On 26 November, 131 kindergarten pupils and teachers fell ill after eating food from FoodTalks Caterer & Manufacturer during a learning camp.

Earlier this week, 175 people falling ill with food poisoning after attending four separate events at the grand ballroom of Mandarin Orchard Hotel between 1 and 3 December.

The NEA and AVA will be stepping up checks on food establishments during the festive season. With the increase in volume of consumers dining out and ordering catered food, all food operators must ensure that the food sold is prepared hygienically and safe for consumption. The authorities will take action on any operator who fails to maintain food safety.

Related stories:

175 ill in mass food poisoning linked to events at Mandarin Orchard Hotel ballroom

131 fall ill in third mass food-poisoning case this month

NEA suspends licence of Tung Lok Catering at Singapore Expo after reports of illnesses

Man dies after gastroenteritis outbreak at Spize Restaurant at River Valley