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200 joints checked after poisoning

/ 06:52 AM August 16, 2015

ANGELES CITY, Philippines—The city government on Friday formed a task force to determine if more than 200 eateries, restaurants and hotels here comply with sanitary standards and food handling protocols.

Mayor Edgardo Pamintuan formed the task force after more than 35 people were taken ill early this month by what health authorities confirmed as food poisoning cases at a restaurant in Marquee Mall.

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But the Department of Health’s (DOH) Regional Epidemiology Surveillance Unit (RESU) and the National Meat Inspection Services (NMIS) in Central Luzon failed to identify the substance that led to the food poisoning, said Dr. Jessie Fantone, RESU chief.

According to Fantone, the meat sample taken last week from the restaurant was not sufficient for the NMIS examination.

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He said they could no longer secure more samples because the restaurant had disposed of the remaining stock of allegedly spoiled meat.

“However, this exercise may be moot and academic. It is clear we have a case of food poisoning, which the restaurant had acknowledged. The restaurant also promised to shoulder the expenses of the victims,” he said.

Restaurant representatives attended an inquiry initiated by the city council on Tuesday where they apologized for what they described was an isolated case.

Pamintuan said the branch’s franchise owner, whom he did not identify, went to his office on Aug. 13 to apologize. The restaurant opened in the first week of August and its Asian buffet was an early favorite.

The city government ordered it closed until the city health office (CHO) and the DOH give it a clearance to resume operations. “[The owner] traced the problem to the drop in temperature of [refrigerators]. He said this might have spoiled some of the food,” Pamintuan told the Inquirer.

Fantone said the restaurant faces penalties for improper meat storage, among other local health code offenses. Pamintuan said the owner had assured him and the city council that the restaurant would cooperate in the investigation and “make full reimbursement” of hospital expenses of the victims.

The CHO also found that 40 of 50 employees of the restaurant did not get food handling and health certificates. Water samples tested negative for bacteria, according to the CHO. Tonette Orejas and Justine Dizon, Inquirer Central Luzon

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TAGS: Angeles City, bars, City government, Department of Health, Dr. Jessie Fantone, Joints, National Meat Inspection Services, poisoning, Regional Epidemiology Surveillance Unit
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