Monday, August 16, 2010


India's mid-day school feeding program has come in for lot of criticism because of the mismanagement, corruption and lack of focus on quality, safety and nutrition. As the Federal Government depends on the state agencies for delivery of the food, a centralized monitoring does not exist exposing the system to gross abuse. As the decision regarding the type of food to be supplied is decided by the individual state Education Department, each one goes for different modes for preparation and delivery. Innumerable instances of food borne infection and poisoning are not addressed and the charade goes on. Against such a background the stand taken by one of the local civic authorities to insist on quality check of school foods, as per country's safety regulations, is a welcome departure for the routine "soulless" program.

"Following the mid-day meal incident that left 127 civic school students ill on Friday, the civic health department has decided to direct all educational institutions to constitute a committee to check quality of food served to students on their premises. The incident has also brought to focus lack of coordination among departments concerned. "It is mandatory for food-related business in the civic jurisdiction to have a licence. The education board never consulted or intimated the health department on appointment of women self-help groups for supplying mid-day meal," said PMC health department chief, R R Pardeshi. The urban community department had recently asked the health department to check whether the cooking by self-help groups was hygienic. "The health department, after inspection, conveyed to the urban community department that the cooking place of was not hygienic," Pardeshi said"

It is an unwritten writ that almost all products turned out by government organizations in the public sector are not inspected and assessed under the PFA Regulations and invariably these agencies can violate the mandatory provisions of the law with impunity. One of the reasons could be the fact that government officials in charge of the production programs are not ready to pay the "bribe" to food inspectors if and when they visit the premises and these inspectors have greater "incentives" to concentrate on private traders and well to do industry for their "unofficial" earning.


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