SINGAPORE: Banquet operations at Mandarin Orchard Singapore's main ballroom have been suspended with immediate effect after 175 people fell ill with food poisoning and nine were hospitalised, the authorities said late on Wednesday (Dec 5).
The 175 cases were linked to four separate events held at the Grand Ballroom at Mandarin Orchard Hotel between Dec 1 and 3, said the Ministry of Health (MOH), National Environment Agency (NEA) and Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA).
The nine people who were hospitalised are in stable condition.
Investigations are ongoing, said the authorities.
As all the affected people had attended events or eaten meals at the hotel's Grand Ballroom, and in view of "suspected ongoing transmission," authorities said the NEA had also suspended the banquet kitchen serving the Grand Ballroom.
The hotel has also been instructed to close the Grand Ballroom to conduct a thorough clean-up and disinfection.
It is also required to dispose of "all ready-to-eat food, thawed food and perishable food items, and conduct thorough cleaning and sanitising of its premises including equipment, utensils, work surfaces and toilets", the authorities said in their joint statement.
"The suspension and closure will be in place until NEA is satisfied that the public health risks have been addressed."
FIRST OF CASES REPORTED ON DEC 4
The authorities said they were notified of the first of the cases on Dec 4, and began joint investigations the same day.
This included collecting food and environmental samples for testing. Food handlers were also sent for stool screening.
During the suspension period, the hotel is required to conduct a thorough cleaning and sanitisation of the banquet kitchen and the implicated ballroom. This includes cleaning all utensils with food-grade disinfectants and disinfecting of all furniture, including dining tables and chairs, food preparation surfaces, walls and floors.
"Thus far, there are no cases linked to the other food and beverage premises in Mandarin Orchard Hotel," the authorities said.
"We have checked those premises and are also working with Mandarin Orchard Hotel to ensure that they review processes for all its other kitchens. The authorities will continue to place the implicated premises under close surveillance," they added.
"Our officers will be conducting further inspections to ensure that the premises are properly maintained and cleaned, and that the kitchen staff observe proper personal hygiene and food handling practices."
News of the incident first broke when scores of people fell ill after a lunch banquet at the hotel on Sunday afternoon.
Separately, a Channel NewsAsia reader who attended a Jewish dinner at the hotel on the same day said that he fell "deathly ill" after the event, which was attended by about 500 guests.
"I personally know of about 12 people who have fallen ill," the guest said. "At least two were hospitalised; both were senior citizens," he added.
Mandarin Orchard confirmed that a Chanukah dinner was held in the Grand Mandarin Ballroom on Sunday, but that the hotel did not prepare nor handle the food "due to their special requirements".
Another Channel NewsAsia reader who did not want to be named said about 20 people took ill after attending a wedding dinner at the Grand Mandarin Ballroom on Saturday night.
One of them was hospitalised, she told Channel NewsAsia.
Those affected started experiencing food poisoning symptoms including vomiting and diarrhoea on Sunday night and on Monday, she said.
"We only found out on Monday that most of us in the family were feeling sick," she said. "So (we) went to ask around other relatives and found out some fell sick too."
SUSPENSION DOES NOT EXTEND TO OTHER RESTAURANTS IN HOTEL
Banquet operations at the Grand Mandarin Ballroom were shuttered under NEA's advice and "in the interest of public health", said Mandarin Orchard Singapore in a statement to Channel NewsAsia.
The hotel added that the suspension does not extend to other restaurants and function venues, and will last "until further notice and clearance by relevant authorities".
"Our team will be in touch with the organisers of all upcoming events that will be affected to make alternative arrangements and assist in ensuring their requirements and concerns are addressed," the statement said.
"We are now working to rectify the situation expediently, and will continue to provide timely updates," it added.
This latest outbreak comes in the wake of a spate of food poisoning cases in November.
The most serious involved a fatality, after more than 80 people were taken ill when they consumed bento box lunches supplied by Spize from its River Valley outlet.
More than 20 people were hospitalised, including 38-year-old auxiliary police officer Fadli Salleh who died on Nov 14.
On Nov 23, 190 people fell ill with symptoms of gastroenteritis after consuming food prepared by restaurant group TungLok's catering arm.
On Nov 26, more than 130 students and teachers fell ill after consuming food prepared by FoodTalks Caterer and Manufacturer while attending a children's camp.
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