Pow Sing: Same food, better hygiene
Pow Sing Restaurant and Pow Sing Kitchen reopened their doors yesterday after they had their licences reinstated on Wednesday following multiple cases of food poisoning.
More than 80 people had fallen ill in July after eating chicken rice at two popular Serangoon Garden eateries.
But when the suspension of Pow Sing's two licences was lifted on Wednesday, one family rushed down the next day hoping to eat it once before leaving town to go back to France.
They were sorely disappointed that Pow Sing Restaurant and Pow Sing Kitchen, which are next to each other, had still not opened for business.
Determined, they returned yesterday for their fill of Singapore's most popular meal.
"This dish is connected to the meaning of home. We had to eat it at least once before we went back to France," Mrs Michelle Mely, 28, told The New Paper.
Last night, the Singaporean, who lives in France, returned to Paris with her French husband and four-month-old daughter.
Since her family home is at Serangoon Gardens, the housewife has been a regular customer at Pow Sing for more than 15 years.
The food poisoning cases traced to Pow Sing had not deterred her.
The National Environmental Agency (NEA) suspended the licences of Pow Sing Restaurant on July 13 and Pow Sing Kitchen three days later following multiple food poisoning incidents. (See report below.)
The two eateries were closed for more than a month.
Owner Lee Chin Soo, 61, said he used the time to renovate and improve hygiene standards of both outlets.
Mr Lee estimated the closure of the two eateries cost the business around $400,000 in revenue.
Pow Sing director Tan Chong Lam, 56, said the two eateries take in more than $1,000,000 a year before tax, rent, food costs and worker salaries are deducted.
Mr Lee also forked out an additional $200,000 for renovation works.
This included replacing three faulty chillers, installing new acrylic roofs and setting up brand new shelves in the kitchen.
Both eateries were also disinfected and the ventilation systems in the kitchen were cleaned out.
Mr Lee said he and his 44 staff went through a one-day Basic Food Hygiene Course (BFHC) on July 20, which cost him around $5,000.
This was after an unregistered food handler, Mrs Meri Lim, was found preparing food at Pow Sing Restaurant.
Mrs Lim, 43, has since undergone the BFHC, the mandatory course stipulated by NEA for all food handlers.
"I felt bad for implicating my boss when the incident happened, but Mr Lee never reprimanded me or other workers," Mrs Lim said in Mandarin. She has been working at the restaurant for a year.
Mr Lee said in Mandarin: "The workers are not to blame. The incident helped me see which areas I overlooked."
It might have been a costly lesson for Mr Lee, but he said money is not a problem.
"Upgrading my kitchen and making sure cleanliness standards are met is the only way I can take responsibility and be accountable to my customers," he said.
He had also compensated customers who came back to him with medical bills, which came to $1,000.
However, it seems that Pow Sing's loyal customers are unfazed by the food poisoning outbreak.
Mr Thomas Seet, 60, a part-time church worker, had eaten at the restaurant the very day its licence was suspended.
"I was surprised that people fell sick after eating the food as I eat here all the time but never fell sick," Mr Seet told TNP yesterday at Pow Sing Restaurant, which was half full at lunchtime.
He said: "I missed the food during the month it was closed. It has been the same plate of chicken rice I have come back to for the past 10 years."
Mr Lee was apologetic to the customers who fell sick and said he was grateful to customers who continue to patronise the restaurant.
"I've done this for more than 30 years. This business will always be the most important thing to me," he said.
Mr Lee confessed that the past month had been the most arduous period in more than three decades since he started the business in 1983, but he never thought of giving up.
"I am determined to stand back up where I fell," he said.
This dish is connected to the meaning of home. We had to eat it at least once before we went back to France.
- Mrs Michelle Mely, a Singaporean who lives in Paris
Before and after
In July, the authorities found 80 food poisoning cases linked to Pow Sing Restaurant and eight cases to Pow Sing Kitchen.
The National Environment Agency (NEA), Ministry of Health and Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority made the joint investigation following complaints from the public.
NEA suspended the operating licence of Pow Sing Restaurant from July 13 and of Pow Sing Kitchen from July 16. The suspension was lifted on Wednesday.
Here are the violations that the eateries were found guilty of and the changes they have since made.
1. Before: No temperature records of refrigerators and freezers
After: Temperatures are recorded three times every day, in the morning, afternoon and night.
2. Before: Faulty chillers, refrigerators and freezers
After: The owner, Mr Lee Chin Soo, has bought three new refrigerators, each costing around $10,000. He also bought a new chiller.
3. Before: One unregistered food handler
After:Mr Lee and all of the Pow Sing staff attended a Basic Food Hygiene Course, which is a mandatory certification course by the NEA for all food handlers in food and beverage outlets.
4. Before: Poor housekeeping, leading to strands of bacteria like E. coli and salmonella found in food
After: Mr Lee changed all the chopping boards and silverware.
He has colour-coded the five new chopping boards. There is one for cooked food. One each for fresh vegetables, uncooked red meat, and uncooked chicken. And another for other uncooked items.