SINGAPORE: Caterer Tung Lok Millenium, whose operating licence was suspended after a food poisoning outbreak left 190 people ill, had its licence reinstated on Thursday (Jan 24).
The 62-day suspension was lifted by National Environment Agency (NEA), who said it was satisfied that Tung Lok had implemented the measures required to rectify its lapses, NEA said in a media release.
Following the lifting of its suspension, NEA will place Tung Lok under close surveillance to ensure that it adheres to what they submitted in their plans to ensure good hygiene, it added.
A warning will also be issued to Tung Lok for the hygiene lapses found.
CAUSES OF OUTBREAK
The catering arm of well-known restaurant group TungLok had its licence suspended on Nov 23 last year, after 190 people fell ill with symptoms of gastroenteritis after eating food prepared by the caterer for an event at the Singapore Expo.
Tung Lok was among several food caterers and restaurants whose customers fell ill after consuming food from their establishments in November and December last year, with the most serious of them involving a fatality.
The lifting of the Tung Lok's suspension "comes after the conclusion of joint investigations by the Ministry of Health (MOH), NEA and Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA)," the release said.
The investigations identified "several hygiene lapses and poor kitchen habits", including the lack of soap for hand-washing and improper use of ice dispensing utensil for ready-to-eat ice.
An environmental swab taken from the bento packing table also tested positive for Bacillus cereus - a pathogen that is stimulated by and reproduced from the heat emitted during cooking. Leaving the food at room temperatures allows bacteria to incubate.
However, as the majority of food poisoning cases were "recovered by the time MOH was informed of the outbreak, stool samples were not available for analysis to identify the causative agent," NEA added.
MEASURES TAKEN BY TUNG LOK
During the suspension period, Tung Lok complied with measures stipulated by NEA, such as disposing all ready-to-eat food, thawed food and perishable food items. It also cleaned and sanitised the premises, including equipment, utensils, work surfaces and toilets.
The caterer also submitted plans to ensure that good hygiene standards will be observed during their food preparation. These include: providing soap for hand-washing, proper use of ice dispensing utensil for ready-to-eat ice, and ensuring their staff practise good food and personal hygiene at all times.
"All food handlers have since re-attended and passed the Basic Food Hygiene training course," added NEA.
The caterer has also appointed a new food hygiene officer with necessary food and beverage hygiene credentials at the implicated premises.