Viet Nam News
HÀ NỘI – Parents in the capital city are worried about their children’s health after plant protection residues were found in vegetable samples at the Hoàng Liệt Kindergarten in Hoàng Mai District last week.
Trần Quý Thái, Vice Chairman of the Hoàng Mai District People’s Committee, said that on October 19, he led an inter-sector inspection team to check food safety in eight schools.
The unannounced inspection, which included immediate testing in a specially-equipped mobile truck, found plant protection residues in a sample of green vegetables, mùng tơi , or Ceylon spinach, taken from the Hoàng Liệt Kindergarten. The vegetable hadn’t been processed for cooking when it was taken for testing. Further testing is being done, officials said.
Thái said that the team recorded its finding, and officials of the Hoàng Mai Health Department and other agencies visited the Việt Nam Agriculture and Foodstuff Export-Import Company, which supplies foodstuff to the school and took samples for testing.
On Monday, the district’s economic department reported that the company had signed a contract for vegetable and fruit supply with the An Sinh Hi-tech Joint-Stock Company that located at Đặng Xá, Gia Lâm District.
The result of inspections at the An Sinh company showed that 57kg of Ceylon spinach came from a farming household that is a member of a safe vegetables growing group.
Inspectors have taken samples of vegetables grown by this household for further testing.
The Hoàng Liệt Kindergarten has 1,000 children aged three to five. The inspection and its findings have parents worried about the quality of food being served to their children.
Nguyễn Thị Hồng Loan, mother of a four-year-old girl, said: "At the office, I can check and select where to get safe food, but in schools, children are completely dependent on the teachers.”
“When I heard about the chemical-infected vegetables, it hurt me, because the children are so small. How will their health be affected if they consume pesticides every day? "
Another mother, Tam Anh, who lives on Hoàng Mai District’s Lĩnh Nam St., said that she wanted to prepare lunch for her son, but the kindergarten administrators didn’t allow it.
Tam Anh said parents in the city now have many ways to prepare clean meals, by growing vegetables and raising chickens by themselves, buying foodstuff from safe-food places or getting them from trusted relatives in rural areas.
Why did the school sign a food contract with a company that wasn’t a safe-vegetables grower, she asked.
"If my son is accidentally poisoned or gets sick after plant protection ingestion for a long time, he and his parents are the ones to suffer,” she said.
Hoàng Thanh Hương, head of the pre-school division of the city’s Education and Training Department, said the district People’s Committee has asked the economic and health departments to check and report on the situation to her department as well as the Hà Nội People’s Committee.
Hương said the district administration was responsible for inspecting and evaluating food suppliers to schools in the area. The school principal was responsible for assigning inspectors to check food origins and when there are problems with the food, the food supplier would be held responsible for any damage caused, she said.
So far, Nguyễn Thị Hồng Nga, principal of the Hoàng Liệt Kindergarten, is yet to respond on this situation.
Trần Quý Thái, deputy chairman of the Hoàng Mai District People’s Committee, said district authorities were very concerned about the safety of all 30,000 students in the area. However, while checking food in school kitchens, it was difficult to detect those that contain excess chemicals because of the lack of special equipment, he said.
Lack of equipments
Regarding the plant protection contamination found at the Hoàng Liệt Kindergarten, district authorities had to register with the city’s Health Department for using the mobile truck equipped with food-testing equipment. Since the city has just three of these trucks, district authorities have to register several weeks in advance.
Trần Ngọc Tụ, Director of the city’s Food Safety Department, agreed that having just three mobile food-testing trucks serve millions of residents was not sufficient.
He suggested that schools themselves check food quality, deploying several steps including checking the origins of the materials and ensuring fresh food like meat and fish have needed quarantine papers. The schools should also arrange staff who are qualified to check food quality and preservation conditions. The cooking process must also be checked regularly, he added.
Unfortunately the lack of food hygiene in the kindergarten is not an isolated incident.
In mid September, Bùi Kim Thúy, principal of the city’s Hoàng Hoa Thám Primary School, confirmed that failure to keep food trays clean had led to a third-grade student finding maggots in his/her lunch tray. She sought to allay concerns about food safety, saying the worms were found not in the food, but on the food tray.
She said the reason was that after lunch on Friday, the dishwashing staff put aside two trays that were stuck together. The trays had been left unwashed for two days, she said.
Nguyễn Đắc Hưng, head of the Ba Đình District’s Education and Training Office, said that as soon as the plant protection contamination came to light, an order was sent to all schools that organise meals for students in canteens that they had to strictly comply with food hygiene and safety regulations, and totally avoid products of unknown origin.-- VNS