SINGAPORE: All 35 PCF Sparkletots pre-school centres previously served by external caterers will make a permanent shift to using in-house cooks, said PAP Community Foundation (PCF) in a briefing on Friday (Apr 5).
The move comes in the wake of a spate of food poisoning cases at 13 Sparkletots centres. A total of 251 people were affected, including 12 members of staff.
The outbreak has been traced to the consumption of food prepared by Kate’s Catering, which served all 13 affected centres.
In a statement, PCF CEO Victor Bay confirmed that as of Friday all 31 children who were hospitalised have been discharged, and 90 per cent of affected children were “well enough to return to school”.
PCF currently operates 356 PCF Sparkletots pre-schools.
PCF on Friday said that 18 of the 35 pre-schools previously served by caterers have made the switch to in-house cooks. These include 15 of the 16 centres that were served by Kate's Catering.
There is no set time frame for all pre-school centres to complete the transition, said PCF, adding that catering services at the remaining centres will stop once in-house cooks are hired or existing cooks redeployed.
While PCF had engaged external caterers, it always intended to eventually use in-house cooks at its pre-schools, said Mr Bay.
“Our plan was that even though the (catering) pilot was successful, we want to move back to in-house cooking,” he said.
It first started using caterers during a six-month pilot programme in January 2018 as part of efforts to boost productivity. PCF said it had also faced difficulty in sourcing qualified cooks for its pre-schools.
Senior director of PCF’s pre-school management division Marini Khamis cited a “relatively high” turnover rate as one of the reasons for this difficulty.
Currently, PCF requires all their in-house cooks and kitchen helpers to complete a basic food hygiene course conducted by trainers accredited by the National Environment Agency. This is in addition to PCF's own in-house training.
Those who are part of the kitchen staff are also required to be physically fit to cook three meals a day for up to 300 children at each centre.