PCF Sparkletots, student care centre food poisoning numbers rise; 1 child still in hospital

Including the 16 cases at Plan Student Care Centre announced by the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Friday, the latest update brings the total number of pre-school cases to 257. PHOTO: LIANHE WANBAO

SINGAPORE - The number of staff and children affected in a recent spate of pre-school food poisoning cases has risen by about two dozen to more than 260.

A PCF Sparkletots spokesman said on Monday (April 1) that there were 241 affected children and staff across its various branches.

In an update on Tuesday, the PAP Community Foundation (PCF) said that the figure had risen to 251, comprising 239 children and 12 staff.

This is an increase from PCF's previous figure of 222 at 4pm on Thursday.

Including the 16 cases at Plan Student Care Centre announced by the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Friday, the latest update brings the total number of pre-school cases to 267.

PCF added on Tuesday that of the 31 children hospitalised, 30 have been discharged and the remaining child is in stable condition.

"Fortunately, no staff required hospitalisation and (they) are managing well," said PCF's spokesman.

MOH on Tuesday said that 33 children were hospitalised, of which 32 have been discharged.

A new PCF centre at Punggol Coast Block 303A was also added to the list of 12 PCF centres affected previously in Toa Payoh, Sengkang, Paya Lebar and Punggol.

The PCF spokesman said that it would extend support to families who are in need of financial assistance as a result of the medical expenses incurred in relation to the incident.

He said: "We are deeply concerned about our children and staff, and take this matter very seriously.

"We remain in close contact with all affected parents and are monitoring their children's conditions."

PCF said that it will continue to stay vigilant at all its 356 centres, with daily temperature taking, as well as regularly cleaning and disinfecting its premises.

In response to queries, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) said on Thursday (April 4) that 15 of the 16 affected students from the Plan Student Care Centre have returned to school as of Wednesday noon.

One student remains hospitalised, but in a stable condition.

MSF said that all student care centres registered with the ministry are required to adhere to guidelines on health and hygiene.

The ministry had issued an advisory on Monday to remind the centres of the guidelines, including what to ensure when preparing and handling food, whether the food is prepared in-house or by external caterers.

The centres were also reminded to maintain high standards of environmental, food and personal hygiene.

The 13 PCF centres and Plan Student Care Centre were all served by Kate's Catering, and the company's services have been terminated by PCF since last Tuesday.

PCF said that its Sparkletots centres began using catering services in August 2018 after a pilot scheme. As of March 20, 2019, 35 out of its 356 centres use catering services while the rest use in-house cooks.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) has also instructed Kate's Catering to suspend its operations with effect from last Tuesday, pending investigations by the various agencies.

Last Wednesday, MOH, NEA and the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore said they were investigating the incident.

When contacted by ST, a spokesman for Kate's Catering said that it was working with the respective authorities.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.