Rojak stall owner faces court action over mass food poisoning

Source of Article:

By Lynda Hong, Channel NewsAsia | Posted: 14 April 2009 2229 hrs





SINGAPORE: Authorities have decided to prosecute the rojak stall holder at the centre of a food poisoning outbreak in Singapore.

The "Rojak Geylang Serai" stall owner's licence will be suspended pending the outcome of the court action, said a joint statement by the Ministry of Health (MOH) and National Environment Agency (NEA).

The MOH said it has concluded its investigations into the food poisoning cases linked to the stall at Geylang Serai Temporary Market.

"The cause has been identified as a common source outbreak of Vibrio parahaemolyticus traced to the cross-contamination of rojak and raw seafood ingredients harbouring the bacteria," said MOH.

"Laboratory investigation confirmed 13 of the cases to be positive for Vibrio parahaemolyticus, including the first fatal case," it added.

There were altogether 154 cases. Forty-eight of the patients had to be hospitalised, two of whom died. The MOH said death associated with the bacteria is rare, and it is awaiting the coroner's report on the two deaths.

No food remnants were available for microbiological testing because the "Rojak Geylang Serai" stall had been cleared out by the operators and the rojak food items and gravy discarded as soon as they received customer complaints.

Nonetheless, MOH and NEA investigators detected some lapses in food and environmental hygiene.

While the exact steps leading to the contamination of the rojak food items or gravy are still unclear, MOH and NEA said their investigators could draw some insights from a previous case on how this could have occurred.

In 1983, a similar outbreak of food poisoning involving 34 cases was traced to the consumption of Indian Rojak from a market stall, also at Geylang Serai. In this case, the food was prepared at an unlicensed premises at Joo Chiat, where abundant drippings from raw cuttlefish were found to have contaminated the rojak gravy in uncovered containers on the lower shelves of a refrigerator.

As for the food poisoning outbreak at the steamboat restaurant in Geylang, the authorities have been notified of another two cases, bringing the total to 19.

13 food handlers at the steamboat restaurant have also been directed to undergo screening and their results are pending.

The authorities advise the public to take note of personal hygiene and the area's cleanliness, especially when eating out. - CNA /ls




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