SINGAPORE - The National Environment Agency (NEA) lifted the suspension on Tung Lok Millennium's catering kitchen at Singapore Expo on Thursday (Jan 24), 62 days after the restaurant group was hit by a food poisoning outbreak.
The NEA said in a statement that it is satisfied that the measures to rectify the food hygiene lapses have been implemented, and operations at the kitchen at 1 Expo Drive can resume.
The Ministry of Health (MOH), NEA and Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority had earlier concluded joint investigations into the food poisoning incident, with 190 cases reported between Nov 19 and Nov 21 last year.
The cases were traced to the consumption of food prepared at Tung Lok's premises catered for an event. No one was hospitalised and a majority of the victims had recovered by the time the MOH was informed of the outbreak, the NEA statement said.
The NEA suspended Tung Lok's operating licence on Nov 23 to protect consumers from public health risks.
Investigations identified several hygiene lapses and poor kitchen habits, including not providing soap for hand-washing and the improper use of ice dispensing utensils for ready-to-eat ice.
An environmental swab taken from the table where the bento boxes were packed also tested positive for the Bacillus cereus bacteria, which can cause nausea, vomiting and abdominal cramps.
Tung Lok complied with NEA-stipulated measures during its suspension period, such as disposing of all ready-to-eat food, thawed food and perishable food items.
It also cleaned and sanitised its premises, including equipment, utensils, work surfaces and toilets.
The restaurant group also submitted its plans to ensure that good hygiene standards are observed during food preparation, the NEA said.
These measures include providing soap for hand-washing, proper use of ice dispensing utensils for ready-to-eat ice, and ensuring that its staff practise good food and personal hygiene at all times.
Staff who handle food have also since attended and passed the Basic Food Hygiene training course again.
This was part of an enhanced Food Hygiene Officer scheme announced in December last year, which requires these officers to undergo retraining and pass the WSQ Conduct Food and Beverage Hygiene Audit course, before a suspended eatery can get its operating licence back.
The NEA said that Tung Lok has appointed a new Food Hygiene Officer at Singapore Expo, and the person has gone through and passed the WSQ course.
The agency said that it has also issued a warning to Tung Lok, on top of the 62-day suspension. It will keep the caterer under close surveillance to ensure that it adheres to its food safety and hygiene plans.
Tung Lok's president and chief executive Andrew Tjioe said the company has followed the guidelines from NEA closely and has covered any "missing steps".
“Of course, there was revenue lost from the kitchen. But the small Singapore Expo kitchen is not the only part of the business - we have a central kitchen, that continues to be open,” Mr Tjioe said.
Mr M. Lee, who is a senior logistics manager in his 40s and a long-time Tung Lok customer, said: "It is alarming that there was a mass food poisoning incident, but I do have faith that Tung Lok has cleaned up their act on the hygiene front.
In the statement, the NEA also reminded the public to be cautious about their food preparation practices, as food poisoning can also happen at home.
For health-related queries, the public can contact the MOH on 1800-225-4122.
Those who would like to give feedback on hygiene lapses can contact the NEA at its 24-hour hotline on 1800-225-5632.
• Additional reporting by Cheryl Teh