THE owner of the laksa stall in Baling, Kedah, linked to the deaths of two of his customers, could be looking at only a two-year jail term, or RM10,000 fine.
That is the maximum punishment that he could be slapped with for selling contaminated laksa that caused 81 others in three states to be hospitalised.
Health officers, who used the Pulse Field Gel Electrophoresis test, found that the laksa noodles he used in the dish on Oct 4 were tainted with salmonella interica serovar weltevreden.
The stall owner produces his own laksa noodles. Health officers believe the cause of the poisoning could be the result of the preparation and storage of the noodles, which were unsanitary.
Their findings suggest that the temperature during these processes, as well as inadequate reheating before his bowls of laksa were sold, had allowed the bacteria to propagate.
The officers from the Baling district Health Office had, on Sunday evening, informed the stall owner of their findings.
Deputy Health Minister Lee Boon Chye said the ministry would initiate legal action against the owner.
“We have to ensure that the preparation of food is always clean and safe as this involves public health and safety.
“This is a serious matter, even if it does not involve deaths. Action will be taken. This involves lives.”
He urged the public to report dirty, unsanitary food outlets.
“If you show any symptoms, don’t take it lightly. Go to the nearest hospital,” he said.
Salmonella is often associated with tainted chicken, beef, eggs and dairy products.
For the record, the stall, which was ordered to close on Oct 8, could be operating again soon.
The Health Ministry, in a statement, said the owner, must first take corrective measures and satisfy the Food Act 1983 and the Food Regulations Act 1995.
This is in addition to the 2009 Food Cleanliness Regulation and the requirements of the local authority.
“The stall owner has been informed that if these requirements are met, he is free to reopen his stall.”
The first death was on Oct 6, after the victim suffered severe symptoms of food poisoning. This was after consuming the famous laksa from the stall in Kampung Seri Landak in Kupang, Baling, Kedah.
The second victim died a day later.
The laksa stall owner, Daud Ismail, 51, had claimed that the noodles were made fresh daily, even posing for the press, tucking into a bowl of plain laksa.
He said none of his family members had been “poisoned”.
“If it (the plain laksa noodle) was poisoned, my family and I would be the first ones to die.”