CAUSE OF PRE-SCHOOL POISONING CASES: SALMONELLA

Imelda Saad of Channel News Asia reports that the cause of a food poisoning outbreak in 10 pre-schools last month, which affected over 270 people has been traced to a bacteria called Salmonella Enteritidis:

It was found in the seafood marinara pasta supplied by Mum’s Kitchen.

The company was the caterer for eight of Pat’s Schoolhouse’s preschools, the Children’s Place at Kay Siang Road and Learning Visions at Raffles Place.

In a joint statement, the Health Ministry and National Environment Agency said the bacteria was found in the stool samples collected from the affected cases.

The organism is not native to seafood but is commonly found in items such as poultry and eggs.

Authorities said there may have been cross-contamination of the pasta with raw food during preparation at the caterer’s premises.

Interviews with food handlers indicated the same trays were used to hold raw and cooked foods.

This may be a possible cause of cross-contamination, if the trays were not cleaned properly.

Authorities add meat, seafood and poultry were also being prepared in the same area, which increases the risk of cross-contamination.

Mum’s Kitchen will be charged in court for selling food unfit for human consumption.

If convicted, it faces a fine of up to S$5,000.

This is on top of the earlier S$300 fine it was slapped with, including 4 demerit points.

The caterer’s licence remains revoked.

It will have to comply with conditions before NEA lifts the suspension.

This includes hiring an independent food safety consultant to conduct a thorough review of its food safety management system; ensuring staff pass the necessary food hygiene courses, and implementing a system to ensure daily sanitization and disinfection of food handling equipment, including transport vehicles.

There will also be follow-up checks.

After the suspension is lifted, NEA will carry out regular checks at the two premises operated by Mum’s Kitchen, including food sampling tests, to ensure the robustness of its enhanced food safety management system.

To reduce the recurrence of similar incidences, NEA will also step up its engagement with caterers.

It will issue advisories on best practices in food safety management, food storage, preparation and serving.

The advisories will stress the importance of separating the storage and preparation of raw and cooked food, the use of different sets of utensils when handling raw and cooked food, and the need for food handlers to wash their hands thoroughly after handling food.

NEA will also step up engagement with consumers.

From July, NEA will publish the food hygiene track records of all caterers on its website to allow the public to make better informed choices when buying catered meals.

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