In less than three weeks, Singapore has been hit by mass food poisoning, affecting more than 400 people.
While food hygiene deviations can be one of the causes, Dr. Chia Shi-Lu, chairman of the Government's Parliamentary Committee on Health, told The New Paper yesterday the scale and proximity (in terms of time) of the incident could very well point to something like a bug or source contaminated.
He added that while the investigation was still ongoing and he could not say exactly what caused it, the fact that there were several incidents even though strict food hygiene standards might indicate that it could be something more worrying than just cleanliness.
Caterers will also increase alertness after each case.
So, careful investigation is underway to determine the cause so that it can be dealt with appropriately, he added.
The latest incident occurred at a learning camp on Monday organized by Busy Bees Asia.
The camp was attended by children and kindergarten teachers. The next day 131 fell ill. There were no victims treated in the hospital.
After the incident, the National Environment Agency (NEA), the Ministry of Health and the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority said in a joint statement that they were investigating an epidemic of gastroenteritis.
The incident has been traced to food consumption prepared by FoodTalks Caterer and Manufacturer, which is located at Shimei East Kitchen in Bedok, on Monday.
On Tuesday, the authorities inspect the catering place. As part of the investigation, food handlers were sent for fecal examination, and food and environmental samples were taken for testing, the agency said.
TNP understood that the camp was intended to reach two to three days, but was canceled on the first day of the incident.
Responding to a question from TNP, Mr. Ronald Kwong, director of operations and curriculum at Busy Bees Asia, said the food had been prepared by external catering.
Busy Bees Asia suspended the camp and reported the incident to the authorities and will continue to work with agents to determine the cause of the incident, he added.
TNP understands that this is not the first time the organization has served food from FoodTalks.
Mr. K. F. Seetoh, a local food expert, told TNP that food poisoning occurs even in the world's best restaurants, but with perseverance and respect for the kitchen, food providers can avoid such things.
He said: "It's tempting and easy (for kitchen staff) not to wash hands or sneeze in the preparation area in the kitchen. Only more stringent controls and rules need to be taken with serious penalties for violations."
He said such incidents were serious and could bring the brand down, and personal hygiene must be practiced at all times.
Guidelines and information about food hygiene and safety for consumers can be found on the NEA website, including information about food served safely.
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