Dirty eateries flouting safety and hygiene standards to be shut down

KUALA LUMPUR - The Health Ministry will shut down eateries that do not meet food safety and hygiene standards.

It is also warning the public to stay away from dirty eateries as it tries to zero in on the source of the spike in typhoid cases in the city.

Disease Control division director Dr Chong Chee Kheong said the ministry was investigating the source of the outbreak in several areas in Kuala Lumpur to determine whether it was from a single or multiple source. A total of 32 cases have been reported since August.

"We will check the travel and food history of those infected and make an analysis on where the source is," he said.

Dr Chong said it would be a very targeted investigation.

"If the infected person had taken food from certain areas in Kuala Lumpur, those areas will be investigated and rated and if the food taken was from another state, those places will also be checked," he said.

"If they are not clean, we are going to close them down," he said in an interview after the launch of the Health Ministry's Fourth Dietetic and Nutrition conference yesterday.

On Monday, the ministry issued a typhoid outbreak alert following 32 cases of typhoid reported in Cheras, Titiwangsa, Kepong and Lembah Pantai since August.

Dr Chong said typhoid was endemic in Malaysia and it was related to contaminated food and drinks due to poor hygiene and cleanliness, he said.

Between 200 to 300 cases were reported each year nationwide, he said.

Typhoid fever is caused by the bacteria Salmonella typhi and is spread by eating food or water contaminated with excreta from an infected person.

The symptoms include abdominal pain, fever, headache and fatigue.

Dr Chong said that the alert was given because people did not expect a typhoid outbreak to occur in Kuala Lumpur, associating it more with rural areas where hygiene levels were low.

"Consumers must be particular about the places they eat. It need not be expensive places but clean places," he said.

Dr Chong said the investigation into the source of typhoid cases would take time as the patients involved ate different foods in different locations over three weeks and investigators had to take samples from all the different places.

He said that they also had to take stool samples from food operators and food handlers who were not always at their premises at the time of sample collection.

When patients were asymptomatic, they had to take more than one sample and from everyone working in the shop, he said.