175 fall ill after four events at Mandarin Orchard ballroom

Those who fell ill attended events at the Grand Ballroom in Mandarin Orchard Hotel in four separate events over three days, from last Saturday to Monday. The authorities said investigation into the possible causes of the incidents is ongoing.
Those who fell ill attended events at the Grand Ballroom in Mandarin Orchard Hotel in four separate events over three days, from last Saturday to Monday. The authorities said investigation into the possible causes of the incidents is ongoing.PHOTO: MANDARIN ORCHARD SINGAPORE

Nine people hospitalised are in stable condition; ballroom closed, banquet kitchen suspended

At least 175 people have fallen ill after eating meals and attending events at the Grand Ballroom in Mandarin Orchard Hotel in four separate events over three days - from last Saturday to Monday - in the fourth major mass food poisoning incident here in about four weeks.

Nine of them have been hospitalised and are in stable condition, the authorities said last night.

The Ministry of Health, National Environment Agency (NEA) and Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said in a joint statement that the outbreak of gastroenteritis has been traced to events held at the Grand Ballroom.

Investigation into the possible causes of the incidents is continuing, it added.

Meanwhile, NEA has ordered the hotel to close the Grand Ballroom and suspend the banquet kitchen serving it until further notice "in view of the suspected ongoing transmission and that all the affected people had attended events or consumed meals" there.

But no cases have so far been linked to the other food and beverage premises in the hotel, the statement said. "We have checked those premises and are also working with the hotel to ensure they review processes for all its other kitchens."

The authorities said they began joint investigations on Tuesday, including collecting food and environmental samples for testing and sending food handlers for stool screening.

Counsellor Matthew Tjow, his wife and three children were among more than 400 guests at a wedding lunch at the Grand Ballroom on Sunday.

CLOSE SURVEILLANCE

Our officers will be conducting further inspections to ensure the premises are properly maintained and cleaned, and that the kitchen staff observe proper personal hygiene and food-handling practices.

THE MINISTRY OF HEALTH, NATIONAL ENVIRONMENT AGENCY AND AGRI-FOOD AND VETERINARY AUTHORITY, in a joint statement.

The 40-year-old said he and his children began showing symptoms of gastroenteritis on Monday, while his wife experienced some stomach discomfort on Tuesday.

"My seven-year-old daughter was the worst hit among us," he said yesterday, adding that they have been feeling better in the past 24 hours.

"She had several bouts of vomiting... and we were worried she may be dehydrated."

Mr Tjow added that his 10-year-old son was still running a fever yesterday. "All of us came together on Sunday with the sole intention of celebrating the couple's marriage," said Mr Tjow, who has known the groom for about 20 years.

"It is unfortunate that they have been put in such a predicament."

He also said a hotel representative had contacted him on Tuesday night and visited his family yesterday.

 
 

A hotel spokesman said it will contact organisers of coming events to make alternative arrangements.

"We are working to rectify the situation expeditiously and will continue to provide timely updates."

Meanwhile, hotel workers who handled food on the affected days have been temporarily relieved of their duties until they have completed all necessary medical tests and are cleared by the authorities, the spokesman added.

The authorities have also given the hotel specific instructions on what to do to the Grand Ballroom and banquet kitchen while they are closed.

The Grand Ballroom has to undergo a thorough clean-up and disinfection of all furniture, including dining tables and chairs, food preparation surfaces, walls and floors.

The banquet kitchen is required to dispose of all ready-to-eat, thawed and perishable food items. It also has to carry out a thorough cleaning and sanitising of its premises, including the equipment, utensils, work surfaces and toilets.

Food-grade disinfectants are required to be used to clean all utensils such as plates, bowls and cutlery.

The kitchen's suspension and ballroom's closure will be in place until NEA is satisfied that the public health risks have been addressed, said the statement.

The authorities will continue to place them under close surveillance. "Our officers will be conducting further inspections to ensure the premises are properly maintained and cleaned, and that the kitchen staff observe proper personal hygiene and food-handling practices,'' the statement added.

People who have visited the Grand Ballroom are also reminded by the ministry and NEA to see a doctor early if they experience any gastroenteritis symptoms such as diarrhoea and vomiting.

The authorities also urged people to take the necessary precautions, such as washing or sanitising their hands regularly, and using service utensils when sharing food.

The first three mass food poisoning cases took place last month.

On Nov 6, 81 people became ill after eating food catered by Spize for a Deepavali celebration. A Sats officer, Mr Fadli Salleh, 38, died in hospital about a week later.

On Nov 23, 190 people were sick after eating food from Tung Lok Catering at a Singapore Civil Defence Force event.

Four days later, 131 kindergarten pupils and teachers attending a children's camp fell ill after eating food from FoodTalks Caterer and Manufacturer.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 06, 2018, with the headline '175 fall ill after four events at Mandarin Orchard ballroom'. Print Edition | Subscribe