Chengdu principal sacked over food scandal

By Xu Keyue and Ji Yuqiao Source:Global Times Published: 2019/3/17 22:28:39

Govt won’t gain from shielding school: expert

Students dine at a canteen in Sichuan Normal University in Chengdu on July 8, 2018. Photo: VCG

The principal of a school in Chengdu, Southwest China's Sichuan Province was fired after a food scandal angered parents and caused wide concern about food safety in China. 

While pledging zero tolerance for any misconduct relevant to the scandal, local authorities also urged the public not to spread online rumors. 

The founding company of the Chengdu No.7 High School Development School was also placed under investigation, Chengdu officials said at a press conference on Sunday.

Parents accused the school of serving moldy food to students and causing serious illness. 

As of Saturday, 929 students from the Chengdu school had undergone a physical check-up and 77 of them had visited the doctor, the Wenjiang district government press office said on Sina Weibo on Sunday.

Among the three students hospitalized for acute appendicitis and bellyache, two are in stable condition and one has been discharged.

A Chengdu market regulator investigation found that 17 out of the 18 batches of food supplied to the school's canteen were qualified, while 75 kilograms of vermicelli were moldy, with two-thirds of them served by the canteen.

Investigators stressed that the samples were properly stored and that no third party interfered with the tests. 

Sample food tests were also conducted in canteens of five other schools in Chengdu that share the same food supplier. No problems have been found.

Net users also claimed that students suffered from kidney failure, hemoptysis and excessive hormone levels. However, no such syndrome was found in the physical examinations, Xie Qiang, head of Chengdu's health commission, said. 

Xie said the tests found cases of gastrointestinal disorder, which is common in teenagers.

The school has over 5,600 students. It offers elementary to high school education. 

Online rumors

Chengdu police announced that they detained rumormongers, including a 39-year-old woman from Chengdu, who claimed a parent discovered the food quality problem after month-long undercover work at the school canteen after her child suffered a long period of loose bowels.

Police detained another woman surnamed Liang after she allegedly said online that a parent from the Chengdu school died by suicide while attempting to seek justice for the student who was suffering from loose bowels, Chengdu cyber police said Thursday. 

Three parents were also probed as investigators found that they released fake moldy food photos to gain public attention, the Wenjiang district government press office said. 

Surveillance video showed that the parents broke into the school the night of March 12 and deliberately poured condiment powder and other materials on the food stored in the canteen to fake a scene that the food was moldy, Dai Dejun, deputy head of Chengdu's public security bureau, said.

The three then released the fake "moldy food" photos online. One of the suspects confessed that they deliberately released the false photo to attract attention and pressure the school, Dai said. 

Credibility issue

Parents allegedly from the Chengdu school said they remain unconvinced by information released on Sunday, one week after the incident was revealed online and nearly half a year after they complained to local authorities.

Comments on the late response and lack of details flooded the Sina Weibo account of the Wenjiang district government and the school. 

"The public is confused about who is responsible for the incident, and concerns are growing," Yu Guoming, a professor at Beijing Normal University's School of Journalism and Communication, told the Global Times on Sunday. 

"Incidents which spark huge public concern should be addressed as transparently as possible," Yu said.

Meanwhile, a Beijing-based sociology expert, who requested anonymity, dismissed concerns that the government might shield the school and hide the truth. 

"There's no need to falsify an investigation report as it will totally damage the credibility and public trust in the Chengdu government," the expert said.

Posted in: SOCIETY

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