The FSSAI states that the dreams and aspirations of a nation are reflected in its children. Therefore it becomes the duty of all schools to ensure that the children’s eating habits are nurtured in a way that enhances their health. Schools should adopt a food safety programme that keeps children free from health hazards and which at the same time promotes healthy food habits like opting for
- Nutritious food over “junk” food.
- Avoiding foods that have High Fat, Sugar and Salt (HFSS)
Children are very susceptible to foodborne diseases like jaundice and typhoid and so the food served to them in school canteens must be healthy and safe. Another problem is that of food poisoning caused by certain bacteria like salmonella, E. coli, etc. which contaminate foods especially raw meats and dairy products, juices and even coconut. Every person who runs a school canteen has the responsibility to ensure that the food is prepared, handled and sold according to best practices prescribed in the FSS Act, 2006.
Dates on packaged foods
Another area of concern in school canteens is packaged and processed foods and beverages. These should be periodically checked for ‘best before’, ‘expiry date’ or ‘use by’ dates as children are not educated or aware of the need to check dates. The processing and packaged food industry carries out periodic food testing at several stages of food preparation so they can label the foods correctly. However, the onus is on the school canteen manager to ensure these foods are stored appropriately so that their expiry dates are clearly visible.
Schools must understand that anyone who runs the school canteen facility is a Food Business Operator and so has to comply with the FSS Act, 2006 and the FSSAI food standards. Any food that is sold in the school canteen must be
- Fit for human consumption
- It must not be adulterated or contaminated in any way
- It must be standardised, of good quality and must not have deteriorated
- The food preparation area the equipment used, and the vehicles used to transport it must be clean
- Handling and serving food must be as per Schedule 4 of the FSSA
- All food safety and hygienic practices must be implemented
Need for a good food safety programme
Since the children’s health is at stake it is incumbent on the school authorities to strengthen their food safety programmes. There should be a written agreement between the FBO and school head that children be provided foods that are safe, nutritious, wholesome and affordable. In case food is prepared in a bakery or cooked outside in another kitchen, before it is brought to the school then those who prepare the foods for the school canteen must also have FSSAI license/ registration. All such consignment of foods must be inspected before it is sold in the canteen. Oil, ingredients and raw foods must not cause health hazards or lifestyle diseases like child obesity. Therefore the school must
- Select only those FBOs to run the school canteen that are licensed/ registered and buy foods only from licensed vendors
- All food handlers working in school canteens must have a health certificate that they are free of contagious diseases
- Have an effective school canteen inspection programme where inspections are frequent and regular
- Monitor food quality served in school canteens. Carry out regular food and water testing from a certified food testing laboratory
- Audit school canteen and foods served by external agency
- Make available healthy beverages and nutritious food choices
The school must also run food safety awareness programmes for children and parents so that they are aware of the kinds of foods that should be provided by the school canteen. They can even ask the food testing laboratories to demonstrate in the school some common and doable food tests that can help them to detect adulteration in foods. Schools are encouraged to include food activities in the curriculum like
- Food manufacturing processes of food industry
- Personal Hygiene Practices
- Hygienic Food Preparation Practices
- Safe Storage and Display Practices
- Cleaning Procedures to be adopted
If you run a school canteen and would like us to partner you in ensuring food safety then we could be of assistant to you.
Do contact us at +91-8588851888