SINGAPORE: Authorities are investigating a gastroenteritis outbreak at four PCF Sparkletots Preschool centres after more than 100 children fell ill and 15 people were hospitalised.
Six of those hospitalised have been discharged, according to a joint statement on Wednesday (Mar 27) by the Ministry of Health, the National Environment Agency and the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority.
The outbreak has been traced to the consumption of food prepared by Kate's Catering, the statement added. As of Tuesday, 109 cases of gastroenteritis have been reported.
PCF Sparkletots told Channel NewsAsia that it is monitoring the situation in seven other centres served by the same caterer.
FIRST CLUSTER ON MAR 22
Authorities had inspected the caterer's premises at KA Food Link at 171 Kampong Ampat on Mar 22 "upon notification of the first cluster".
"Additional clusters were reported on Mar 25, 2019, and the caterer has been instructed by NEA to suspend its operations with effect from Mar 26, while investigations by the agencies are ongoing," the statement said.
Food handlers have been sent for stool screening and food and environmental samples taken for testing, it added.
The four preschools are located at Block 210, Block 270, Block 290A and Block 298B at Sengkang Central.
TEMPORARY FOOD ARRANGEMENTS
While the cause of the children's illnesses has yet to be determined, the caterer's services have been suspended at all 11 centres "for an indefinite period of time", said PCF Sparkletots, adding that it is assisting the authorities in their investigation.
"Temporary food arrangements have already been made to provide meals from an in-house cook with the requisite certification or from other NEA-certified food caterers," it said.
It added that it will continue to monitor this food arrangement closely and make daily checks on the food supplied to the children.
PCF Sparkletots said that it is in "close contact" with the parents of the affected children and has been monitoring the students' conditions.
Staff members have carried out cleaning and disinfection protocols of the centres’ premises to reduce the risks of further contamination, it added.
"We are taking this matter seriously and our priority was to ensure that our children receive the necessary medical care and attention," said the statement.
"PCF Sparkletots will continue to provide the relevant support for all affected parties.”
A notice on NEA's website said that food handlers working at the suspended premises "are required to re-attend and pass the Basic Food Hygiene Course, before they can resume work as food handlers".
"The appointed Food Hygiene Officer(s) working at the suspended premises is also required to re-attend and pass the Food Hygiene Officer course before he/she can resume work as a Food Hygiene Officer," the notice added.
There were two food poisoning outbreaks linked to catered food at pre-schools last month.
A group of 14 children under the care of Sparkletots Preschool at Block 45 Toa Payoh East fell ill after consuming food by a caterer.
On Feb 27, authorities reported an outbreak of gastroenteritis that affected 30 children and a school employee at a MindChamps pre-school in Tanglin.