SINGAPORE - A Chinese restaurant in Clarke Quay has had operations suspended for two weeks over unsanitary food handling practices.
The branch for hotpot chain Haidilao has been closed since Sunday (Feb 10). When first queried, a company representative told The Straits Times it was "under renovation". But in a statement on Tuesday, Mr Wang Jinping, general manager of Haidilao Singapore, disclosed that the suspension of the Clarke Quay branch followed two inspections by NEA in August and September last year.
The restaurant is directly managed by Sichuan Haidilao Catering Co. The group has six other branches in Singapore - at Novena Royal Square, 313@Somerset, IMM Building, VivoCity, Bedok Mall and Plaza Singapura. All these branches remain open.
The chain has more than 200 outlets in 60 Chinese cities, as well as outlets in Los Angeles, Tokyo, and Seoul.
The restaurant's Clarke Quay branch in River Valley Road was also fined $800 by the National Environment Agency (NEA) for accumulating 12 demerit points over the past 12 months over the handling of food with bare hands and the selling of unclean food.
Licensees who accumulate 12 or more demerit points during a 12-month period may have their licences suspended for either two or four weeks, or cancelled, depending on their past record, said the NEA.
It added that all food handlers working in suspended premises must attend and pass the Basic Food Hygiene Course again before being allowed to resume work.
On Aug 8 last year, an NEA inspector saw a worker at the Haidilao branch slicing watermelon without gloves on. The worker was fined $300 and the outlet was slapped with six demerit points. The store manager quit in December.
On Sept 20, NEA found that a serving of beancurd did not pass its hygiene tests, and the outlet had another six demerit points.
Mr Wang said Haidilao took the incidents seriously and stepped up its checks at its Clarke Quay outlet. At the same time, it advised all the managers of its outlets to uphold the stipulated standards.
After the August incident, Haidilao took several measures to improve the situation. These included appointing two food safety organisations to independently inspect the food hygiene standards of all its outlets and conduct impromptu checks. The company has also stepped up the training of its food handlers under NEA's guidelines.
Its Clarke Quay outlet stopped operating on Feb 10 and will be suspended for two weeks.
It will be taking this time to renovate the five-year-old outlet, as well as to enhance its facilities and improve its service standards.
The outlet will reopen in April, Mr Wang said.
"Haidilao promises to put food hygiene and food safety first in all its outlets across the globe... and provide better service to all its customers," he added.
NEA said it takes a serious view of these offences and would like to remind food operators to observe good food and personal hygiene practices at all times, and to engage only registered food handlers.
The agency reiterated that it would not hesitate to take firm action against anyone found to be in violation of the Environmental Public Health Act. It advised members of the public to call 1800-225-5632 with details of such violations.