School meal safety a concern for parents hinh anh 1Serving safe and quality lunches for students at the Doan Ket Primary School in Long Bien district in Hanoi. (Photo: VNA)

Hanoi (VNS/VNA) - Food safety management in schools is always a concern for schools’ managing boards and parents.

The proportion of students at all levels in Hanoi registered for meals at schools is increasing. Many schools have invested in kitchen facilities to ensure food safety and hygiene and established a food supervision team with the participation of students' parents. However, unfortunate incidents with school meals still occur.

Recently, maggots were found in the meals of students of the Education Science Experimental School in the capital's Ba Dinh district, causing great public concern.

According to the meal supplier Ha Thanh Company, the lorry the firm uses transports many different types of goods, so before transporting the school meals, the food container was not cleaned and the lids of the food boxes were broken, causing other items to contaminate the meals.

Although the incident was discovered early and did not cause any harm, questions about procedures to ensure food safety and hygiene in school meals were raised.

Before that, on September 9 and 10 this year at Tien Duong Primary School in Dong Anh district, dozens of students suffered food poisoning during lunch and had symptoms of abdominal pain, vomiting and dizziness.

Healthy authorities determined the cause to be microbiological. Inspectors discovered that the warehouse of the food supplier Vu Quynh Company was near toilets, the food processing area was contaminated with insects and the water used for food preparation was drilled well water and had not been tested as per regulations.

While such incidents are rare, they have caused many parents to worry.

Having two children registered for lunch at school, Vu Minh Nguyet, who lives in Tay Ho district, said that despite the school introducing the food suppliers and offering joint inspections with the school administration, she still feels unsure about the school meals.

"Parents also struggle to thoroughly and regularly control the quality of the food entering the school kitchen because the inspection is only sensory. I just hope the school and the food supplier’s processing puts students' health first so that parents can be assured when their children are at school every day," Nguyet said.

Some parents, like Tran Thi Binh in Cau Giay district, have chosen to pick up their children from school at lunch time every day due to concerns about school meals.

With the largest educational system in the country, Hanoi has nearly 2,200 school kitchens, so food safety and hygiene in the kitchens is a focus of leaders of the Hanoi Department of Education and Training (DoET) and schools.

Pham Xuan Tien, deputy director of the department, said the DoET saw ensuring the safety of students as its most important task, including safety for boarding meals.

Every year, the department works with the Department of Health and district authorities to regularly and irregularly inspect meals for students at schools, including the food supply process.

It holds the school principal responsible for controlling the food entry process.

Nguyen Thi Lieu, principal of the Doan Ket Primary School in Long Bien district, said that to serve more than 1,000 students who eat at the school, the school has carefully selected reputable food suppliers. Not only based on documents and food safety accreditation certificates issued by the authorities, the school administrators and parents also inspect the place of food production and processing.

"The school also keeps a close watch on daily menus and runs nutritional software according to the advice of supplier, but most importantly, we work based on the assessment and comments of students and students' parents. If there is a lot of food left by students, the school will adjust immediately but still have to balance nutrition, ensuring the students’ health," Lieu said.

The reception of food in the morning is also seriously and fully implemented by Gia Quat Primary School in Long Bien district. The inspection of food is done regularly by the school, with clear requirements for food suppliers.

"The administrators and teachers are always observing and understanding students’ and parents' feedback on the quality of school meals to make timely adjustments. Besides teaching knowledge, taking care of students’ health are equally important,” said Nguyen Thi Phuong, principal of Gia Quat Primary School./.