Chicken rice eatery in Serangoon Gardens suspended over food poisoning

Pow Sing Restaurant was ordered to clean its premises after 29 customers came down with a stomach bug.
Pow Sing Restaurant was ordered to clean its premises after 29 customers came down with a stomach bug.PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

A Serangoon Gardens eatery known for its chicken rice and long queues was closed yesterday after at least 29 customers came down with gastroenteritis.

The authorities suspended Pow Sing Restaurant's licence yesterday and ordered it to clean up the premises and get rid of all food.

In a joint statement, the Health Ministry, National Environment Agency (NEA) and Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said they were alerted to cases of the stomach bug on July 4 and inspected the eatery the next day.

"Several hygiene lapses, including failure to maintain temperature records and allowing an unregistered food handler to prepare food, were observed," it said.

Although Pow Sing was instructed to deal with these lapses, four more cases were reported on Monday. This led the authorities to suspect there might be a "continuing source of infection" in its premises.

A check by The Straits Times showed the eatery was graded "A" by the NEA in May for its hygiene and housekeeping practices.

Mr Lee Chin Soo, the restaurant's director, told reporters in Mandarin yesterday that he was "puzzled and shocked" and "regretful" about what happened. He added: "We are a responsible restaurant, we have been open for more than 30 years without any problems."

A notice on the shutters said renovation works were slated to start yesterday. Mr Lee said he will commission painting and repair works at the premises during the suspension.

Besides throwing away all food, the restaurant will have to thoroughly sanitise equipment, utensils, work surfaces and toilets. It will also have to rectify the lapses identified earlier.

As part of the investigation, the AVA has collected food samples from the restaurant and will be testing them. The Health Ministry has collected stool samples from the affected customers, while the restaurant's food handlers have been sent for stool screening.

Only staff who are confirmed to be free of disease, and who re-attend and pass the NEA's Basic Food Hygiene Course, will be allowed to go back to work.

"Based on our joint investigation findings, NEA will take the necessary enforcement actions against the operator for the hygiene infringements found," the statement said.

The NEA reminded food operators that all staff who handle food must be registered with the agency, and should not prepare food if they are sick.

Pow Sing Kitchen, another Serangoon Gardens restaurant under the same management, is not affected by the suspension.

The year has been marked by a series of gastroenteritis outbreaks. In April, Goodwood Park Hotel's bakery had its licence suspended after at least 183 people suffered food poisoning after eating its popular durian pastries. In May, Pek Kio Market and Food Centre was closed temporarily after 180 cases of gastroenteritis were reported in the Owen Road area.

Members of the public can report such incidents to the NEA by calling 1800-2255-632.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 14, 2016, with the headline 'Chicken rice eatery suspended over food poisoning'. Print Edition | Subscribe