Mass food poisoning incidents (2018)

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In 2018, there were seven cases of mass food poisoning incidents.[1] The incidents spanned across a period of five months starting from April onwards. Out of the seven separate cases, there was one fatality in which a man had died from the incident.

Summary

Across a period of five months in 2018, more than 1,000 people in total were affected by food poisoning incidents in Singapore. The breakdown of the incidents are as follows:

Date Site of incident People affected
2 April 2018 Nanyang Girls’ High School (Boarding School) 110[2]
20 July 2018 CHIJ Secondary (Toa Payoh) 200[3]
19 October 2018 Raffles Institution 179
6 November 2018 Spize (River Valley) 82, 1 death
22 November 2018 TungLok Catering (1 Expo Drive) 190
26 November 2018 FoodTalks Caterer and Manufacturer 131[4]
1-3 December 2018 Mandarin Orchard Singapore (Grand Ballroom) 315

Raffles Institution (Oct 2018)

179 Raffles Institution Year 6 students came down with bouts of diarrhoea, vomiting and abdominal pains after consuming catered food during their graduation event on 19 October 2018.[5] The incident occurred a few days before the students were due to sit for their A-level examinations.


The catering company responsible for the incident was Team Catering, which had its’ food hygiene grade adjusted to a ‘C’ after the National Environment Agency (NEA) investigated the incident.[6] The NEA also stated that they would monitor the company's premises until the next review the following year.

Spize River Valley (Nov 2018)

The facade of the Spize outlet at River Valley Road that was implicated in the November 2018 mass food poisoning case. Photo from The Straits Times.

On 6 November 2018, security company Brink’s Singapore organised a Deepavali celebration held at its’ premises at Kaki Bukit. Following the event, there were 82 reported cases of gastroenteritis due to consuming the bento boxes which were supplied by local restaurant Spize’s River Valley outlet.[7] 43 people were hospitalised but as of 14 November 2018, 36 people have been discharged.


On 14 November 2018, SATS officer Fadli Salleh was pronounced dead after he had been admitted into the Intensive Care Unit of Sengkang General Hospital.[8] Fadli Salleh attended the event due to his previous deployment to Brink’s Singapore, although the event itself did not involve SATS.

Government response (NEA, MOH, AVA)

The National Environment Agency (NEA), Ministry of Health (MOH) and Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) released a joint statement regarding the matter on 9 November 2018. The three governmental bodies had conducted a joint inspection of the restaurant premises on 7 November 2018 after they had been notified of the gastroenteritis cases.[9]


During the inspection, a few hygiene lapses were highlighted by the authorities. These include:

  • Leaving ready-to-eat food uncovered in a chiller
  • Not providing soap for hand-washing (soap dispenser was faulty)
  • Slotting knives for preparing ready-to-eat food in the gap between the food preparation tables.
One of Spize's bento boxes that are available for catering services. Photo from Spize SG.


The authorities suspended the operating licence of Spize Restaurant at 409 River Valley Road on 9 November 2018.[10] Spize was also instructed to get rid of all their existing food items and to conduct a thorough cleaning of its premises.


On 7 December 2018, the authorities released another joint statement regarding the incident. Further investigations confirmed that the food was cross-contaminated.[11] The same strain of Salmonella bacteria was present in both the prepared food and raw food. The statement also added that 7 out of 35 of the food handlers were not registered with NEA.

Spize management response

According to Spize’s co-owner Haresh Sabnani, 221 bento boxes had been distributed to six different locations on 6 November 2018. Out of those, only the River Valley branch had been affected.[12] He also stated that since the incident, all the staff members that the branch was cooperating in the sanitisation of the premises.[13]

Following the termination of its operating licenses[14] and the owners' decision to sell the outlet,[15] Spize at River Valley Road is permanently closed.

TungLok Catering (Nov 2018)

TungLok Catering is the catering arm of the established restaurant and brand. Photo from TungLok catering.
Andrew Tjioe (above) the President of TungLok group, directly addressed the situation and implemented measures that re-instated their license.

On 22 November 2018, some officers from the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) and guests from overseas emergency services experienced stomach discomfort and diarrhoea after consuming the catered food. The caterer responsible for the food was TungLok Catering, the catering arm of the restaurant group TungLok. There were 190 reported cases of people feeling unwell but none of them had been hospitalised.[16]

National Environment Agency (NEA) response

NEA, MOH and AVA were notified of the cases on 23 November 2018 and visited the premises to investigate on the same day.[17] The investigations identified certain hygiene lapses such as:[18]

  • Lack of soap for hand-washing
  • Improper use of ice dispensing utensil for ready-to-eat ice


NEA released a food hygiene notice stating that TungLok Catering at 1 Expo Drive was suspended as of 23 November 2018.[19] NEA also instructed that the kitchen staff of the catering company to re-attend and pass the agency’s Basic Food and Hygiene Course before they can resume working in a kitchen.[20]

TungLok Group response

The President and Chief Executive of TungLok Group Andrew Tjioe expressed his view on the matter on 24 November 2018. He mentioned that TungLok Group has been operating their catering business at the Singapore Expo for at least 6 years and this is the only time such an incident has occurred. He also added that all kitchens under the TungLok Group have been certified and 'A' grade for their food hygiene before this isolated incident.[21]


TungLok Catering complied with instructions by NEA during the period of suspension.[22] They submitted plans that outlined acceptable standards of food preparation and ensured that their food handlers attended and passed NEA’s Basic Food and Hygiene Course. TungLok Catering also appointed a new food hygiene officer to handle operations at the implicated premises. This led to the lifting of its 62-day suspension on 24 January 2019.[23]

Mandarin Orchard Singapore (Dec 2018)

The kitchen serving the main ballroom of Mandarin Orchard Singapore was shut down for close to 2 months. Photo from The Straits Times.

Guests who had attended any one of the four separate events held at Mandarin Orchard Singapore’s main ballroom from 1 to 3 December 2018 reported bouts of stomach cramps, nausea and diarrhoea. There were 315 confirmed cases of gastroenteritis, inclusive of the 14 victims who were admitted into hospitals for further medical aid.[24]

Government response

The banquet kitchen serving the Grand Ballroom at Mandarin Orchard Hotel was suspended on 5 December 2018. The authorities conducted joint inspections on 6 and 10 December 2018, where they interviewed the staff. It was discovered through the staff interviews that there was ‘improper cleaning of vomitus in the Grand Ballroom’ and some banquet servers had continued to work although they were unwell.[25]  

Mandarin Orchard Singapore response

On 5 December 2018, a spokesman for Mandarin Orchard explained that the hotel had been contacting affected guests to check on their conditions and render assistance wherever possible. The hotel also temporarily relieved all staff who handled food during the implicated banquet events until they have completed the required medical tests and are cleared by the relevant authorities.[26] Raw food would not be served in the hotel until investigations were concluded.


Mandarin Orchard Singapore complied with instructions by NEA during the period of suspension. They submitted plans that outlined acceptable standards of food preparation and ensured that their food handlers attended and passed NEA’s Basic Food and Hygiene Course. Mandarin Orchard Singapore’s food hygiene officer also underwent the relevant training courses again and passed the WSQ course. The hotel also affirmed that they are committed to investing resources to enhance food safety and sanitation programmes across its operations. This led to the lifting of its 55-day suspension on 29 January 2019.[27]

References / Citations

  1. Danao, Monique. “Singapore Has Faced 7 Cases of Mass Food Poisoning In 2018 Alone”. MustShareNews. December 8, 2018. Accessed on 18 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://mustsharenews.com/mass-food-poisoning-2018/
  2. Lim, Vanessa. “110 Nanyang Girls' High students fall sick during boarding school programme”. ChannelNewsAsia. April 2, 2018. Accessed on 18 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/110-nanyang-girls-high-students-sick-boarding-school-programme-10097196
  3. “200 students at CHIJ Secondary (Toa Payoh) fall ill with gastrointestinal symptoms”. ChannelNewsAsia. July 21, 2018. Accessed on 18 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/200-students-chij-secondary-toa-payoh-food-poisoning-10551182
  4. Choo, Yun Ting. “Caterer under probe over food poisoning at camp”. The Straits Times. November 29, 2018. Accessed on 18 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/health/caterer-under-probe-over-food-poisoning-at-camp
  5. Ng, Huiwen. “Team Catering gets C hygiene grade after 179 RI students fell ill from eating food prepared at Bedok kitchen”. The Straits Times. February 12, 2018. Accessed on 18 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/team-catering-gets-c-hygiene-grade-after-179-people-fall-ill-from-eating-food-prepared-at
  6. Ng, Huiwen. “Team Catering gets C hygiene grade after 179 RI students fell ill from eating food prepared at Bedok kitchen”. The Straits Times. February 12, 2018. Accessed on 18 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/team-catering-gets-c-hygiene-grade-after-179-people-fall-ill-from-eating-food-prepared-at
  7. Koh, Fabian. “Sats officer who fell sick after consuming food from Spize restaurant has died”. The Straits Times. November 14, 2018. Accessed on 18 February 2019. Retrieved from: from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/spize-vows-to-win-back-customers-after-gastro-outbreak-at-river-valley-outlet
  8. Koh, Fabian. “Sats officer who fell sick after consuming food from Spize restaurant has died”. The Straits Times. November 14, 2018. Accessed on 18 February 2019. Retrieved from: from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/spize-vows-to-win-back-customers-after-gastro-outbreak-at-river-valley-outlet
  9. “SPIZE RESTAURANT AT RIVER VALLEY ROAD SUSPENDED FOR LINKS TO OUTBREAK OF GASTROENTERITIS”. Ministry of Health. November 9, 2018. Accessed on 18 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.moh.gov.sg/news-highlights/details/spize-restaurant-at-river-valley-road-suspended-for-links-to-outbreak-of-gastroenteritis
  10. Lim, Min Zhang. Teh, Cheryl. “NEA terminates Spize restaurant's River Valley outlet licences after fatal food poisoning outbreak”. The Straits Times. December 7, 2018. Accessed on 18 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/nea-terminates-spize-restaurants-river-valley-outlet-licences-following-fatal-food
  11. Lim, Min Zhang. Teh, Cheryl. “NEA terminates Spize restaurant's River Valley outlet licences after fatal food poisoning outbreak”. The Straits Times. December 7, 2018. Accessed on 18 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/nea-terminates-spize-restaurants-river-valley-outlet-licences-following-fatal-food
  12. Sun, David. "Sats Singapore officer dies after eating food from Spize". The New Paper. November 15, 2018. Accessed on 22 July 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.tnp.sg/news/singapore/sats-singapore-officer-dies-after-eating-food-spize
  13. Koh, Fabian. Choo, Felicia. “Spize food poisoning: Number of cases hits 81”. The Straits Times. December 7, 2018. Accessed on 18 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/nine-more-report-falling-ill-after-eating-spize-restaurant-bento-boxes
  14. Lim Min Zhang. "NEA terminates Spize restaurant's River Valley outlet licences after fatal food poisoning outbreak". The Straits Times. December 7, 2018. Accessed on 22 July 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/nea-terminates-spize-restaurants-river-valley-outlet-licences-following-fatal-food
  15. Lim Min Zhang. "Spize owners wanted to relinquish River Valley business soon after fatal food poisoning incident". The Straits Times. December 7, 2018. Accessed on 22 July 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/spize-owners-wanted-to-relinquish-river-valley-business-soon-after-fatal-food-poisoning
  16. “NEA suspends TungLok Catering at Singapore Expo after 190 people fall ill, including SCDF officers”. ChannelNewsAsia. November 24, 2018. Accessed on 18 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/nea-suspends-licence-tunglok-catering-food-poisoning-10964882
  17. “Suspension Of Licence of Tung Lok Catering at 1 Expo Drive, #02-05, Max Atria @ Singapore Expo, Singapore 486150.”. National Environment Agency. November 23, 2018. Accessed on 18 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.nea.gov.sg/corporate-functions/resources/food-hygiene-notices/index/suspension-o[email protected]-singapore-expo-singapore-486150
  18. “Tung Lok catering arm gets licence back after food poisoning outbreak”. ChannelNewsAsia. January 24, 2019. Accessed on 18 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/tung-lok-suspension-lifted-licence-food-poisoning-nea-11160894
  19. “Suspension Of Licence of Tung Lok Catering at 1 Expo Drive, #02-05, Max Atria @ Singapore Expo, Singapore 486150.”. National Environment Agency. November 23, 2018. Accessed on 18 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.nea.gov.sg/corporate-functions/resources/food-hygiene-notices/index/suspension-o[email protected]-singapore-expo-singapore-486150
  20. Ng, Hui Wen. “NEA suspends TungLok Catering at Singapore Expo after at least 190 people fall ill”. The Straits Times. November 24, 2018. Accessed on 18 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/nea-suspends-tunglok-catering-at-singapore-expo-after-several-fall-ill
  21. Ng, Hui Wen. “NEA suspends TungLok Catering at Singapore Expo after at least 190 people fall ill”. The Straits Times. November 24, 2018. Accessed on 18 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/nea-suspends-tunglok-catering-at-singapore-expo-after-several-fall-ill
  22. “Tung Lok Millennium Pte Ltd Suspension To Be Lifted Today After Meeting Required Standards”. National Environment Agency. November 24, 2018. Accessed on 18 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.nea.gov.sg/media/news/news/index/tung-lok-millennium-pte-ltd-suspension-to-be-lifted-today-after-meeting-required-standards
  23. Cheow, Sue-Ann. “NEA lifts Tung Lok food ban after 62 days”. The New Paper. January 25, 2019. Accessed on 18 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.tnp.sg/news/singapore/suspension-lifted-tung-lok-after-63-days
  24. “No Links Identified Between Gastroenteritis Incidents Traced To Mandarin Orchard Hotel, FoodTalks Caterer & Manufacturer & Tunglok Millenium Pte Ltd”. National Environment Agency. December 14, 2018. Accessed on 18 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.nea.gov.sg/media/news/news/index/no-links-identified-between-gastroenteritis-incidents-traced-to-mandarin-orchard-hotel-foodtalks-caterer-manufacturer-tunglok-millenium-pte-ltd
  25. “Mandarin Orchard food poisoning: 'Strong evidence of severe contamination', say authorities”. ChannelNewsAsia. December 15, 2018. Accessed on 18 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/mandarin-orchard-food-poisoning-evidence-strong-contamination-11032782
  26. Ng, Hui Wen. Choo, Yun Ting. “175 food poisoning cases linked to 4 events held at Mandarin Orchard’s grand ballroom”. The Straits Times. December 6, 2018. Accessed on 18 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/42-fall-ill-after-meal-at-mandarin-orchard-4-hospitalised
  27. Ng, Hui Wen. “NEA lifts suspension on Mandarin Orchard premises after norovirus outbreak concerns addressed”. The Straits Times. January 30, 2019. Accessed on 18 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/nea-lifts-suspension-on-mandarin-orchard-premises-after-norovirus-outbreak-concerns