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No bacterium found in key areas linked to chef in food poisoning outbreak

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A Polam Kopitam branch. CNA file photo

Taipei, April 14 (CNA) No bacterium known for producing a toxin responsible for a deadly food poisoning outbreak at a Taipei restaurant has been found in key locations visited by the chef, Deputy Health Minister Victor Wang (王必勝) said Sunday.

The environmental samples collected by the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) on April 4 to test for Burkholderia gladioli have returned negative, concluding related inspection work, Wang told reporters.

Wang said none of the samples, 12 taken from the chef's residence and 15 from a close colleague's home, revealed the presence of the bacterium.

The bacterium is known to produce Bongkrekic acid, which was responsible for the fatal food poisoning outbreak at the Polam Kopitiam branch in Taipei's Xinyi District last month.

Early investigations showed that traces of Bongkrekic acid were found in samples from the chef's hands and feces, which Wang speculated could have been indirectly consumed by the chef and metabolized in his body.

The latest findings brought related environmental inspections to an end, following analysis of another 152 samples collected from the restaurant, its food suppliers, and other locations -- all of which tested negative for the same bacterium, he said.

Wang said the result "was expected," as the bacterium is less common in the environment, and the sampled locations had undergone a certain level of cleaning before sampling took place.

Despite the findings, "it is very clear that this was a case of Bongkrekic acid-led poisoning that occurred within a specific time and space," Wang said, adding that the evidence will be forwarded to prosecutors for further investigation.

As of Sunday, out of the 34 people who ate at the Xinyi restaurant from March 18-24 and reported falling ill, two have died and seven individuals remain hospitalized, with four of them in critical condition.

The remaining 25 are recuperating at home, according to the MOHW.

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