Food caterer Spize and related firm fined $32k for fatal food poisoning case

Of the 96 people who ate the delivered food, 63 developed gastroenteritis symptoms and 45 were subsequently hospitalised. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - Food caterer Spize and its related company Spize Events were fined $32,000 in total on Thursday (Dec 3) over a mass food poisoning incident that made more than 60 people sick and killed an auxiliary police officer.

The Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) and Singapore Food Agency (SFA) said in a statement that the companies were convicted of 14 offences related to the November 2018 incident, including for possessing food unfit for human consumption.

The companies had supplied bento boxes to security firm Brink's Singapore for a company event to celebrate Deepavali on Nov 6, 2018.

Of the 96 people who ate the delivered food, 63 developed gastroenteritis symptoms and 45 were subsequently hospitalised.

Mr Mohamad Fadli Mohd Saleh, 38, died eight days later of sepsis and multiple-organ failure brought about by acute gastroenteritis.

"However, there was insufficient evidence to link Mr Mohamad Fadli's death to the negligence of any particular individual. As a result, no charges were preferred against any individual," said the AGC and SFA.

The Spize case was one of four major food poisoning outbreaks in 2018, which prompted the authorities to impose harsher penalties and push for deterrent sentences.

Spize Events, a restaurant, and takeaway outlet Spize were handed the maximum fine of $10,000, for the charge of possessing food unfit for human consumption, in relation to the food the companies sent to Brink's Singapore.

The companies were also found guilty of offences related to the hiring of unregistered food handlers, preparation of food in unlicensed premises, and for failing to keep clean cooking utensils and kitchen surfaces.

According to court documents, salmonella was found on the surfaces of a kitchen the two companies shared, and in some of its ready-to-eat food. Faecal matter was also detected in the ready-to-eat food and kitchen tools.

Most of the hospitalised individuals were discovered to have been infected by salmonella strains.

"According to Ministry of Health, this common source outbreak of salmonella was unusually severe due to the short incubation period and high number of hospitalised cases," said court documents.

The operating licences of Spize and Spize Events, which were based in River Valley, were cancelled on Dec 6 that year.

There are two other Spize outlets in Bedok and Rifle Range Road that remain operational.

SFA added that it conducts regular inspections of food retail outlets and will take strict enforcement actions against those who fail to comply with food safety regulations.

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