Sats officer who fell sick after consuming food from Spize restaurant has died

Spize's River Valley branch had its licence suspended when 46 customers were hospitalised after eating its food. ST PHOTO: KHALID BABA

SINGAPORE - The Sats officer who fell sick after consuming food from popular restaurant Spize has died on Wednesday (Nov 14).

Mr Fadli Salleh, who was married with two young children, had been in critical condition in the intensive care unit (ICU) of Sengkang General Hospital (SKH) after he was one of 72 people who suffered gastroenteritis, allegedly after eating bento boxes prepared by Spize's River Valley outlet for an event last Tuesday.

The party was for a Deepavali celebration organised by security company Brink's Singapore and held on its premises at Kaki Bukit.

Mr Fadli attended the gathering as he was deployed to Brink's Singapore, though the event itself did not involve Sats.

A Sats spokesman said: "We are providing support to the family during this sad and difficult time. Please approach Brinks if you have further questions."

Brinks offered its condolences to Mr Fadli's family and said it it was "deeply saddened" that an employee of its business partner died.

"He was a loyal colleague with a strong work ethic and dedication to serving our customers and his colleagues. We will miss him," said a Brinks spokesman.

"We will keep working closely with the public health authorities as they investigate the cause of the illness."

As of 10pm on Wednesday, nine people are still hospitalised but their conditions are stable, said the Ministry of Health (MOH), adding that 36 people have been discharged.

The cause of Mr Fadli's death is pending as it has been classified as a coroner's case, the ministry said.

A joint statement by the National Environment Agency (NEA), MOH and Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority last Friday said the authorities were notified of the cases last Wednesday and they conducted a joint investigation that day.

Spize's 409 River Valley Road branch's licence was suspended at 7pm that evening.

The statement added that they were investigating several cases of gastroenteritis traced to the consumption of food prepared at the restaurant.

"Several hygiene lapses were observed, including leaving ready-to-eat food uncovered in a chiller, not providing soap for hand washing (soap dispenser was faulty) and slotting knives for preparing ready-to-eat food in the gap between the food preparation tables," said the statement.

Spize had supplied 88 bento sets to Brink's Singapore and Spize's co-owner Mr Haresh Sabnani had told The Straits Times on Wednesday before news of Mr Fadli's death was confirmed that "on that day, 221 bento sets were sent to six different locations, but only that one location was affected".

He added that he had reached out to Mr Fadli. "However, we received an e-mail from SKH, asking us to respect the family's privacy. So we will be giving him and his family space."

After learning that Mr Fadli had died, Mr Haresh said that Spize was "extremely saddened" by the news.

He said that Spize River Valley's management will "provide all help and assistance that is needed to the family during this difficult time."

"Our sincere prayers are with them and all who are still recovering. We would like to assure everyone that we are taking all measures necessary to cooperate with MOH and AVA in the investigations and help in any way we can," he added.

Mr Haresh, 40, founded the restaurant with his brother Anil, 43, and they have three other stores in Bedok, Rifle Range Road and Siglap.

For more than than five hours on Wednesday afternoon, officers from the NEA, AVA and MOH paid their third visit to Spize's River Valley outlet to interview staff who worked on the day of the incident.

Through the shutters, the kitchen was seen to be cleared of utensils and food. A notice on the door said that the branch is closed until further notice and apologised for any inconvenience, while tables and chairs were stacked up.

All 25 staff of the River Valley outlet are assisting to clean the kitchen and restaurant, Mr Haresh said, adding that none of them will be redeployed to the other Spize outlets, so as to isolate any potential causes of the outbreak.

In 2009, more than 150 people fell ill from food poisoning after eating at an Indian rojak stall in April, causing Geylang Serai Market to be temporarily shut down. Thirty-seven people were hospitalised and two died in what was the worst food poisoning incident here. Stall owner Sheik Allaudin Mohideen was eventually fined $9,000 and lost his licence.

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