Strict vigil on school canteens

 22 Sep 2016 - 14:50

Strict vigil on school canteens

By Mohammed Iqbal / The Peninsula

DOHA: With the beginning of the new academic year, the Ministry of Public Health has launched a crackdown on school canteens violating the health and safety regulations.

The Ministry said yesterday that it has intensified inspections at school canteens as well as outlets serving food to schools to ensure they comply with the requirements.

Sources of drinking water in every school is also under scrutiny. The Ministry said that the  inspection drive was intended to guarantee highest safety standards of food and drinking water in all the schools across the country.

A food safety guide has already been circulated to the schools, with instructions on the conditions to be met by school canteens and the food suppliers. The onus has been put on the schools for any failure to meet the health and safety standards requirements. School sources said yesterday that it is not permitted for the schools to prepare food at their premises. They have to tie up with a supplier from outside.

The Ministry said that it is working in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education to raise awareness among schools regarding safety of food and drinking water and prevent all sources of contamination. Inspectors from the Environmental Health department at the Ministry visit the schools regularly and give necessary advice to improve their situation in this regard.

As part of monitoring the quality of water, the inspectors take water samples from the schools for laboratory tests to make sure the drinking water is free from any source of contamination. In case the ministry receives any complaint from schools in this regard, the inspectors check the sources of water, suppliers and the tanks and take necessary procedures.

Food samples from school canteens have also been taken for laboratory tests on a regular basis to ensure food served in the canteens are fit for human consumption. The inspections are based on Gulf standards and specifications, said the ministry.

During their routine visits, inspectors prepare notes about the condition of the canteens and the food, in the presence of the school supervisor responsible for the canteen. 

These notes are preserved in a special notebook for analysis and reference. 

If any error is found, the inspectors will explain necessary procedures to be taken as per the food safety guide and conduct follow-up inspections to ensure corrective measures have been taken by the school management concerned. The ministry said its inspectors also conduct raids on outlets serving food to school canteens in the beginning of every academic year. 

The inspections focus on key points specified in the food safety guide related to different phases of food distribution from cooking to packaging, storing and transportation.

A senior official of a private school told this daily that the ministry inspectors visit the school at least once in every six months and take food and water samples for laboratory tests. 

“Since the schools are not permitted to prepare food on their premises, we have made agreement with a supplier outside to supply food to our canteen. 

“Soft drinks and other unhealthy foods are banned in school canteens. 

“We serve only snacks to students while meals are available to our teachers. The health inspectors check every detail based on the food safety guide and we are strictly following the guidelines,” said the official. The school administration must check all served food on a daily basis. 

Special meals should be arranged for students with health conditions like diabetes and haemolytic anaemia, with approval by the school nurse. It has been recommended to keep two samples of all meals prepared daily, one by the supplier and the other by the school. Samples have to be kept for 72 hours for analysis.