Friday, June 22, 2012


It is interesting to read a recent news item which reported the action of Chinese food safety authorities in overhauling the catering facilities in schools across the country to improve the safety standards there with a view to protect the health of children who depend on them for their meals. The report opens a window to the prevailing situations that exist in Chinese educational institutions, especially in the lower level schools and it is revealing that in schools cafeteria facilities are provided to the students. In contrast the schools in India do not provide such facilities with most kids attracted towards street hawkers who sell unhygienic foods jeopardizing their health. Only recently the Supreme Court in India passed strictures against the government regarding the unhealthy foods to which kids are exposed with the government filing a weak reply which was an example of obfuscation. Many government schools in India depend on free foods distributed under the Applied Nutrition Program or midday meal project under the illusion that children attend the school more regularly. It will be interesting to learn more about the Chinese system though the report mentioned above gives one the impression that it is similar to the American system where kids are supplied subsidized foods through regular canteens. Here is a take on this interesting news. 

"A total of 600 school cafeterias have been given administrative penalties during China's latest inspection tour of such facilities, and more than 20,000 have been ordered to eliminate potential food safety hazards, according to a food watchdog statement released on Friday. Although the punishments were not specified, Chinese administrative penalties usually involve fines and revocations of licenses. As of the end of March, 130,000 school cafeterias across China had been overhauled during a joint inspection launched by the State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA) and the Ministry of Education, according to the SFDA statement. The two organs will conduct a new wave of inspections from May to the end of June, in a bid to prevent food poisoning in the warmer months and examine the implementation of the government order on ensuring food safety. A series of food poisoning cases have been reported by schools in the past month, raising fears among Chinese students and parents.Schools are required to increase students' awareness of food safety, and relevant departments are urged to strict supervision, the statement said". 

In a way, one has to admire the Chinese government for populistic measures like the above though these are at the expense of limiting the personal freedom of the citizens for the sake of national development. The intensified checking and hauling up of institutions for safety violations also speak well of the values attached to the upbringing of children, who are future citizens of the country. While the present attempt is mainly focused on safety violations, what  needs to be done further is to streamline the nutritional and health value of foods offered in school cafeterias across the country. It may be recalled that America is going through a phase where more restrictions are being placed regarding what type of foods should be available in school premises weeding out sugary and fatty foods with low nutrient density, a model that can be adapted in other countries.  


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