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Food safety still a problem in school canteens

Update: November, 26/2018 - 09:00
Health inspectors check food safety at a school kitchen in Ninh Bình City. — VNA/VNS Photo Hải Yến
Viet Nam News

HÀ NỘI — Several food poisoning cases reported at public canteens, including a number in schools, across the country in recent months have raised concerns among parents and the public about food safety.

In the latest incident, hundreds of students at Xuân Nộn Kindergarten in Đông Anh District suffered food poisoning after attending a party at their school on November 14.

Days later, nearly 200 students were taken to local medical facilities for emergency treatment after experiencing stomach aches, headaches, vomiting and high fevers.

One of 13 food samples tested positive for Salmonella type 2 – a bacteria that causes intestinal infection, fever, abdominal pain and diarrhoea.

In October, more than 300 students from Đinh Tiên Hoàng Primary School in Ninh Bình Province also suffered food poisoning.

Health authorities confirmed that bacteria was to blame for the mass poisoning that affected hundreds of children at the schools after they ate chicken floss.

The samples taken from the food and victims’ vomit tested positive for microbes and bacteria, according to Dr Cao Văn Trung, deputy director of the Food Poisoning Supervision Office at the Food Safety Department.

Results of the investigation showed the samples contained Staphylococcus aureus, also known as golden staph, or a type of bacteria frequently found in the nose, along the respiratory tract, and on the skin in humans. It is a common cause of skin infections including abscesses, respiratory infections, and food poisoning.

Earlier, over 170 students from Xín Cái Primary Boarding School in Hà Giang Province’s Mèo Vạc District reportedly suffered from stomach aches, headaches and vomiting after having breakfast. They were hospitalised at a local medical centre.

Lê Quang Thắng, a resident from Hà Nội’s Lĩnh Nam District, said he was very worried about food safety after hearing about the recent incidents.

“Many families are too busy and cannot pick up their children to have lunch at home. Schools must inform parents about food suppliers and strictly control food sources. This is especially important at schools where food poisoning cases have been reported and the schools’ kitchen staff must ensure they follow food safety regulations,” he said. 

Tighten food sources

Bùi Thị An, Vice Chairman of the Hà Nội Science and Technology Association, said that all schools that provide lunch must regularly examine their food hygiene measures.

School kitchens have to be granted a license on food safety conditions and ensure that food is hygienically covered, she said.

Schools have to sign a contract to source their food from licensed foodstuff companies. Workers at school kitchens and canteens have to pass training courses on food safety and hygiene, as well as be given periodic health check-ups. 

Deputy director of the Hà Nội Health Department, Trần Văn Chung, said with the recent incident at Xuân Nộn Kindergarten, the Health Department requested the People’s Committee of Đông Anh District to clarify the responsibility of the school in this case and inspect all food supply facilities in the locality.

Food poisoning was usually caused by contamination that can happen at any stage of production.

Food suppliers often took a long time to transport cooked food from their kitchens to the canteens, and cooks or servers were unaware of food safety during transport, he said.

There was still limited awareness of food safety among producers and traders.

To prevent food poisoning and guarantee food safety in schools, schools are responsible for inspecting the ingredients used to make food in their canteens, said Chung.

Schools should implement a three-step examination that includes the source of the food, processing, and the finished food and distribution to students.

All steps are to be supervised by the school managing board, head cook and health staff who are responsible for signing an inspection book every day. — VNS

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