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Environmental samples at restaurant chain test negative for toxic bacteria

04/03/2024 03:46 PM
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Taiwan Food and Drug Administration Deputy Director-General Lin Chin-fu attends a press conference in this CNA file photo.
Taiwan Food and Drug Administration Deputy Director-General Lin Chin-fu attends a press conference in this CNA file photo.

Taipei, April 3 (CNA) Eight environmental samples obtained from the Xinyi branch of the Malaysian restaurant chain Polam Kopitiam have tested negative for the bacterium that is believed to have produced a lethal toxin linked to the recent food poisoning outbreak in Taipei, the Taiwan Food and Drug Administration (TFDA) said Wednesday.

The eight environmental samples, obtained from the Xinyi outlet on March 28, were collected from the knife and chopping board used for cutting vegetables, the scissors used for cutting pandan leaves, and the refrigerator shelf where flat rice noodles were stored, Tseng Su-hsiang (曾素香), head of the TFDA's Research and Analysis Team, said at a press conference.

Flat rice noodles were ordered by all 30 people who fell ill after eating at the restaurant, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW). Of that number, 22 tested positive for the lethal toxin Bongkrekic acid, while the other eight are still undergoing tests, the ministry said.

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In the environmental samples taken from the restaurant, however, no evidence was found of Burkholderia gladioli, a bacterium known to produce Bongkrekic acid, Tseng said Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the Taipei City Government said that Bongkrekic acid had been detected in particles from the hands of one of the chefs at the Xinyi restaurant on March 24, while three other samples -- collected from a chopping board and two knives -- had tested negative.

According to Tseng, the TFDA also tested those four samples, which had been collected by the Taipei City Government, and the same results were obtained.

The TFDA is now testing the four samples for the presence of Burkholderia gladioli, she said.

Meanwhile, inspectors have taken 14 test samples from the home of the Vietnamese chef at the Xinyi restaurant, whose hands were found to be contaminated with Bongkrekic acid, according to Tseng.

The samples were collected on March 30 from surfaces such as a door handle, refrigerator handle, and washbasin at the chef's home, while particles were again collected from his hands, Tseng said.

The results of those tests would have been available by April 7 at the earliest, as it usually takes a week to culture and examine the bacteria, but it may take longer this time, due to a power outage at the laboratory caused by the earthquake Wednesday morning, TFDA Deputy Director-General Lin Chin-fu (林金富) said at the press conference.

"Now that the toxin (Bongkrekic acid) has been found in the patients' bodies and also on the chef's hands, the next step is to look for the bacterium (Burkholderia gladioli)," he said.

If Burkholderia gladioli could be found, then the circumstances of the food poisoning outbreak would become clearer, he said.

As of 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, 30 people had reported falling ill after eating at Polam Kopitiam's Xinyi restaurant between March 19-24, according to the MOHW.

Of the 30, two had died, six were still in hospital -- four of them in critical condition in intensive care units -- and 22 were recuperating at home, the ministry's data showed.

(By Sunny Lai)

Enditem/pc

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March 27: Suspected food poisoning outbreak in Taipei restaurant leaves one dead  

Focus Taiwan's coverage of food poinsoning incident in Taipei

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