SINGAPORE: Popular chicken rice restaurants Pow Sing Restaurant and Pow Sing Kitchen will have their suspensions lifted on Wednesday (Aug 17), the National Environment Agency (NEA), Ministry of Health (MOH) and Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) said in a joint statement to the media.
The restaurants said they would re-open for business on Friday. Their licences were suspended in July following a food poisoning outbreak. Multiple patrons had suffered from gastroenteritis after dining there.
NEA, MOH and AVA said 88 cases were found to be linked to the two restaurants. Of them, 80 were linked to Pow Sing Restaurant and eight were linked to Pow Sing Kitchen. Both eateries come under the Pow Sing Group.
A total of 30 people sought outpatient treatment, while the rest had self-medicated, according to the statement. No cases were hospitalised.
"Of 16 stool samples collected from cases linked to Pow Sing Restaurant, 13 had tested positive for pathogenic E.coli," the media release stated.
The manager of Pow Sing Kitchen, Mr Tommy Tan, said: "We'll do more checks a day, probably three times a day. We'll check the temperature of the refrigerator, the food quality and food hygiene of every food handler."
HYGIENE LAPSES FOUND
In the statement, NEA said it would take enforcement action against both licencees after the hygiene infringements were found. It has also put both restaurants under "close surveillance" to ensure that the licencees put into practice their plans to ensure that good hygiene standards are observed during food preparation.
Investigations had showed that there were "several hygiene lapses" in the food preparation process, leading to the cross-contamination of food in both restaurants, the release said.
"Food samples taken from Pow Sing Restaurant tested positive for high levels of bacteria such as E.coli, Salmonella and Bacillus cereus. One unregistered food handler was found preparing food. The restaurant had also failed to maintain temperature records of its refrigerators and freezers," according to the release.
Authorities also found the bacteria E.coli and Bacillus cereus on food samples from Pow Sing Kitchen. They added that there was "poor general housekeeping and cleanliness of the premises, and some chillers and freezers were faulty".
After checks on suppliers of food ingredients to Pow Sing, AVA did not find any food safety lapses.
ALL FOOD HANDLERS SCREENED, CLEARED BY MOH
During the suspension period, staff from both restaurants disposed of all ready-to-eat food, thawed food and perishable items; cleaned and sanitised the premises, including equipment, utensils, work surfaces and toilets; and sent all food handlers to re-attend the Basic Food Hygiene Course, the release stated. These are measures stipulated by NEA.
All food handlers have since re-attended and passed the course, and have been screened and cleared by MOH to resume work, according to the statement.
Both restaurants have also submitted their plans to ensure good hygiene standards are observed during food preparation.
"This includes keeping ready-to-eat food such as condiments in the chiller before serving, segregating the workflow for processing raw and ready-to-eat food to prevent cross-contamination, and ensuring that their staff practise good food and personal hygiene at all times," the release said.
Both restaurants have been closed for about a month. NEA, MOH and AVA first sent out a statement on Jul 13 informing of the suspension of Pow Sing Restaurant. It was later announced on Jul 16 that Pow Sing Kitchen was suspended as well.
MOH, AVA and NEA also reminded members of the public that food poisoning that occur anywhere.
"We would like to remind the public that food poisoning can occur anywhere. Poor food preparation practices (e.g. using the same chopping board/knife for both raw and cooked food without washing between uses) and poor personal hygiene (e.g. not washing hands after using the toilet and before preparing food) can contribute to food poisoning even in the home," they said, adding that the public can contact NEA at 1800-2255-632 for feedback on hygiene lapses.