School principals ordered to dine with kids to ensure food safety

Source:Global Times Published: 2019/3/20 18:53:40

Ma Xinling, principal of a primary school in Longde county, Northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, eats with students in the school canteen, as he does every day. Photo: VCG

The discovery of moldy food in a primary school in Chengdu, Southwest China's Sichuan Province, has led to widespread public concern and calls on the internet for measures to guarantee food safety in campus.

The Ministry of Education, the State Regulation for Market Regulation and the National Health Commission jointly released a regulation on food safety, nutrition and health in school on Tuesday, which will take effect on April 4, requiring principals to be responsible for food safety in school and to dine with students, according to the Chinanews.

Before the national regulation, local education authorities in some places had already tried the measure in previous years.

Guangming Kindergarten based in Beijing adopted the practice when the Beijing education commission released the "principal dining with students" measure in October 2017. The authority released another regulation to reiterate that principals should dine with students every day and keep food records.

"Food for junior class is a little salty," read one log entry of the kindergarten. 

Yang Weiwu, a logistics officer of the kindergarten, told the Beijing News that information on various items such as staple food, the dishes served each day, food textures and suggestions from teachers, should be kept in the records.

In Yang's WeChat, two groups are pinned at the top, one for teachers who dine with students, the other for the food preparation crew.

The first group includes 11 staff members of the kindergarten, three chefs and one doctor. The leader on duty on any given day sends feedback to the group after tasting the food, and two doctors, six chefs and a person in charge of food safety decide on the food menus each week.

"A school leader on duty and the person in charge of food safety at the kindergarten will 'taste' before the food is served," Yang said.

"They taste to check the flavor, texture, and whether the vegetables are cut into proper sizes for children to chew," said Yang, adding that records will be archived together with photos.

A manager of a high-end chain kindergarten in Chaoyang district in Beijing said that as there are no special canteens for the principal or teachers in the kindergarten, staff have to dine with children. "It's not only out of consideration of food safety, but eating with children helps improve communication with them," said the manager.

At a secondary school affiliated to Renmin University of China, both class advisers and school officials are required to eat with students. "The principal also joins students and eats with them at the same table, so students can talk freely about their suggestions on the school meals and canteen," Hu Zhanzhi, vice principal of the school, told the Beijing News.

A number of improvements have been made in the two years since the "principal dining with students" policy was implemented. Now, there are controls over every link in the food safety chain, including food procurement, collecting suggestions and feedback and correcting problems based on that feedback.

School meals are mainly cooked in self-built canteens, contracted canteens or third-party catering companies. According to the regulations, companies providing food to schools must be contracted through a bidding process, and schools must submit a copy of the contract to the district education commission and food and drug administration.

For self-built canteens, a series of records including invoices, food material ingredient result and procurement records should be kept to ensure food safety. "An inspector is designated to check on the freshness of ingredients," said Yang.

The secondary school hired a company specializing in nutritious meals to run the canteen. Hu said that surveillance cameras were installed in the kitchen and parents were welcome to visit the kitchen at anytime.

The mother of a student at Beijing Yucai school suggested the school publish its food menus every week so parents could prepare breakfast and supper to guarantee a balanced diet.

In Guangdong Province, South China, the regulation has been in place since January 1, 2016. Under the rule, school leaders should eat with students at least four times a semester, and canteen staff should dine with students at least 20 times, local media reported.

A mother surnamed Liu of a middle school student based in Shenzhen, Guangdong, told the Global Times that she hopes her school canteen will make more diverse and tasty food premised on safety.
Newspaper headline: Eating clean


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