SINGAPORE - A caterer, which was suspended in March following a gastroenteritis outbreak at some PCF Sparkletots centres, has been allowed to resume operations.
The suspension of Kate's Catering was lifted on Friday (May 17).
The go-ahead was given after the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) was satisfied that the measures required to rectify the caterer's lapses in food hygiene have been implemented.
The gastroenteritis outbreak affected 13 PCF Sparkletots Preschools and P.L.A.N Student Care Centre in March. There were 259 cases in total.
Joint investigations conducted by the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the SFA detected Salmonella Enteritidis in stool samples collected from 46 of the affected cases.
The source of food poisoning was traced to the consumption of food prepared at the catering company, and its operating licence was suspended for a total of 52 days.
Several hygiene lapses were identified in Kate's Catering during joint inspections. These included improper thawing of frozen meat, repeated transitioning between handling of food ready for consumption and raw meat, inconsistency in cooking times to ensure thorough cooking and a lack of measures put in place to ensure that the food was cooked properly.
It was also found that there was a lack of understanding and differentiation of the use of various sets of knives when coming into contact with ready-to-eat food and raw food.
Kate's Catering has since complied with the measures stipulated by the SFA. The caterer has also disposed of all ready-to-eat food, thawed food and perishable food items. In addition, it has cleaned and sanitised its premises used for food preparation, including all equipment and utensils.
To ensure that its staff remain aware of hygienic food preparation practices, the caterer has submitted plans for enhanced food safety regimes and sent its food handlers to re-attend and pass the Basic Food Hygiene course.
Said a Kate's catering spokesman: "We have looked through thoroughly and improved our processes and hygiene level with the help of our consultant and SFA. With all these changes, we will be more confident to serve our customers and for our customers to be more confident in us."
He added that more preventive measures and stringent processes are in place to ensure that the incident would not happen again.
The SFA said it will continue to keep a close watch on the caterer to ensure that it adheres to their submissions.
In a joint statement, the SFA and MOH advised members of the public to seek medical attention early should they experience any gastroenteritis symptoms, such as diarrhoea, vomiting, fever or abdominal pain.
The public is also advised to practise good personal hygiene at all times in order to prevent the spread of disease, by refraining from sharing food or drinks, eating utensils, toothbrushes or towels with others.
The statement also reiterated the importance of washing hands with soap and water before eating and after using the toilet.
The public may contact the SFA at 6805-2871, for any feedback on hygiene lapses in food preparation.