SINGAPORE: Restaurant chain Spize on Friday (Nov 9) had its licence for its River Valley Road outlet suspended for an unspecified period of time, after 49 people who ate its food fell ill with gastroenteritis.
Of those who fell ill, 21 people have been hospitalised, said the National Environment Agency (NEA), Ministry of Health MOH) and Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) in a joint press release late on Friday.
"The suspension will be in place until NEA is satisfied that the public health risks have been addressed," the release said.
The authorities said they were first notified of the cases on Wednesday and conducted a joint inspection of the restaurant’s premises on the same day.
"Several hygiene lapses were observed, including leaving ready-to-eat food uncovered in a chiller, not providing soap for hand-washing (soap dispenser was faulty) and slotting knives for preparing ready-to-eat food in the gap between the food preparation tables," the authorities said in the press release.
"The operator has been instructed to rectify them immediately," they said.
NEA, MOH and AVA added that the licence of Spize's River Valley Road outlet was suspended to "protect consumers from public health risks from the continued operation of the foodshop".
The outlet has been directed to dispose of all ready-to-eat food, thawed food and perishable food items.
Spize is also required to conduct a "thorough cleaning and sanitising" of its premises, including equipment, utensils, work surfaces and toilets, and to review and rectify lapses in food preparation processes identified during the inspection.
The release also said that AVA has collected food and environmental samples from the outlet as part of the investigation. Laboratory tests are ongoing.
Meanwhile, MOH has collected stool samples from some of the affected cases and referred the restaurant's food handlers for stool screening.
"Based on our joint investigation findings, NEA will take the necessary enforcement actions against the operator for the hygiene infringements found," said the authorities.
SPIZE OFFERS "SINCERE PRAYERS"
Spize had said earlier in a Facebook post on Friday that it is working with MOH and NEA to identify the exact cause of the food poisoning.
"On the 6th of November, Spize @ River Valley supplied 88 bento sets to a location," said the restaurant. "To our knowledge, 15 of them who consumed our bento sets fell ill."
It added that it would like to "offer our most sincere prayers for those affected".
The local restaurant, which serves a variety of Asian fusion food, added that it was committed to taking "any necessary action required".
"We would also like to wish a speedy recovery to those that have been affected."
Spize has four outlets at Bedok, River Valley, Rifle Range at Temasek Club and Siglap.