DIRTY EATERIES: Check school canteen operators, too
THE nationwide crackdown on dirty restaurants and eateries should also be extended to school canteens and college cafeterias. And if the cleanliness of these places is found wanting, they should be closed down with immediate effect.
The ministries of education and health, apart from ensuring that healthy and nutritious food is served to schoolchildren should also ensure the cleanliness of the premises.
A visit to some school canteens just before recess time would give a clear picture of the lackadaisical attitude of some school canteen operators in preparing and handling food in the kitchen and serving and laying out food.
Most school canteens serve prepared food that would be dished out in plates and laid on a table before recess time. Sometimes plates of food are placed one on top of the other to save space. A large plastic sheet is used to cover the plates filled with food to prevent the food from being exposed to flies and dust.
When it is recess time the plastic sheet is removed and folded and kept in a corner and the food is sold to the children. The following day the plastic sheet is used again to cover the food. How many school canteens wash the plastic sheets or ensure the cleanliness of the plastic sheets?
Houseflies are a common sight in some school canteens. It is common to see flies in large numbers on the floor or on the tables or on the plastic sheets used to cover the food.
Houseflies can cause food to be contaminated which in turn can cause cholera, dysentery and food poisoning. Every effort must be taken by canteen operators to eradicate this menace.
The canteen operator has to ensure that canteen workers who are responsible in the handling and preparation of food don clean attire such as aprons and gloves. The cleanliness of the kitchen and the canteen must be maintained at all times. The floor must be swept and mopped to ensure that flies and other household pests are kept away at all times.
Cats must not be allowed in school canteens. It is common to see cats in some school canteens on the tables licking off food from plates left by the children. The tables and chairs must be wiped and kept stain free.
Plates and glasses must be washed thoroughly with dish washing detergent and disinfected in hot water to remove stubborn oily stains and grease.
All this calls for proper and systematic enforcement by the school authorities. Regular checks by the health and education officers alone will not suffice; it is pertinent that the school forms a select committee to oversee the school canteen.
The committee should check the canteen daily and make sure that every aspect of the food preparation process adheres to strict guidelines. We cannot compromise on the cleanliness of food that is served to children in the face of countless cases of food poisoning.
Samuel Yesuiah, Seremban, Negri Sembilan