NEA lowers hygiene grades of restaurant, four caterers to 'C'

They were involved in food poisoning cases last year which affected hundreds

Four food caterers and a restaurant involved in food poisoning cases last year affecting hundreds had their food hygiene grades lowered to a "C" on Thursday.

In notices on the National Environment Agency's (NEA) website, the caterers were Foodtalks Caterer and Manufacturer in Bedok North Street 5, One Family Catering at Food Xchange @ Admiralty, The Orange Lantern Gourmet Kitchen and Sin Yong Huat Catering in Aljunied Avenue 4.

Foodtalks, One Family and Sin Yong Huat previously had a grade "B", while The Orange Lantern was an "A", according to information available on the NEA website. The only restaurant listed was Imperial Herbal at River View Hotel in Havelock Street. The restaurant's previous grade was an "A".

NEA said the food poisoning incidents occurred between July and November last year.

The case involving Foodtalks saw 110 people reported as having symptoms of gastroenteritis after eating food provided by the caterer.

The victims included Kindergarten 2 children and teachers who were attending a learning camp organised by Busy Bees Asia in November last year.

None of them was hospitalised.

The Ministry of Health, Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority and NEA had conducted a joint inspection of the caterer's premises after the cases were reported on Nov 26.

Last year, 27 people fell ill after eating food from The Orange Lantern on Sept 24. For Sin Yong Huat, 38 people who ate the food on Aug 28 fell ill. For One Family, it happened on July 27 and 35 people were affected. There were 24 victims in the food poisoning case at Imperial Herbal on Nov 7.

Mr Wang Jin Hui, 58, owner of Imperial Herbal, told The Sunday Times the 24 belonged to a tour group from China, who ate five dishes at the restaurant for lunch. He said that two vegetable dishes were found to have levels of bacteria that were higher than usual.

The restaurant has since lookedinto replacing a plastic basket used to contain the vegetables before the dish is served to patrons. It will be using aluminium or steel baskets instead, which can be cleaned in a high-temperature dishwasher, Mr Wang said. "We will also adopt a more thorough cleaning process, including disinfecting our premises every week," he added.

The Orange Lantern director S. S. Lee said the company had catered some meals for 350 Singapore Polytechnic foreign students over five days last year. They were told on the fourth day of the event that two students had fallen ill on the first day. A total of 27 students fell ill over the four-day period.

MOH however, found no evidence of cross-contamination or bacteria in the food. The ministry also could not find the cause of the food poisoning, he said.

Mr Lee added he had earlier appealed NEA's decision. He said: "We have already carried out more cleaning routines in our kitchen, installed plastic curtain strips at all entrances and increased the number of fly traps."

NEA said it adjusted the caterers' and restaurant's food hygiene grade to "C" from March 21 after investigations. The grade will be reviewed in 12 months, and NEA will be keeping the premises under surveillance in the meantime.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 24, 2019, with the headline 'NEA lowers hygiene grades of restaurant, four caterers to 'C''. Print Edition | Subscribe