Step by Step school in Noida is the latest establishment to come in the news owing to the food poisoning of around 50 students after their mid day lunch. The students complained of stomach ache and some even started vomiting in the campus. 11 of these students were treated at 3 private hospitals in Noida and Delhi while the rest of the affected students were taken home by their parents. So, the big question here is what happened and despite similar tragedies taking place every now and then, why such tragedies are not prevented?
First of all, it is important to understand what is meant by food poisoning? Food poisoning is an illness caused by consumption of food or drinks contaminated with harmful bacteria or eating food contaminated with chemicals called toxins. The food contamination can occur in different ways – from food packaging, food handlers as well as insects and pests. Chemical contamination is also a big factor that easily contaminates food through food containers, work surfaces or equipments that have been treated with unsuitable chemicals. The death of 22 school children in India in July, 2013 was caused by ingesting cooking oil that was contaminated with insecticides that had previously occupied the same containers. So one of the most important things to consider when it comes to the mid-day meals for children are the safety standards and protocols being implemented and checked upon on a daily basis.
In majority of cases, the cooking and supply of the actual meal is entrusted to a variety of organizations from local women’s groups, to youth clubs to volunteer organizations, like in this case – Sodexo. Though, Step by Step has suspended the services of Sodexo but, did they look into the quality control standards related to both the purchase and preparation of foods on a regular basis? The answer is obviously a no.
It is also important to have a good systematic training among food providers on food safety and quality so, that they are aware of the best practices and standards. Food poisoning generally occurs as a result of poor hygiene and/or food handling practice. Hence, it is important to educate food handlers about their responsibilities for food safety and train them on personal hygiene policies and basic practices for safe food handlings.
Apart from that, there are also really not a lot of protocols and checklists used by internal manufacturing. Improving upon the implementation of tools like checklists, to ensure that anyone handling food follows proper safety protocols, could have a large impact on improving food safety.
It is the duty of the establishment to look at the supply chain as well. The internal quality assurance control, safety and checklists as all these things go a long way in ensuring that the food that is being prepared for children are healthy, safe and free from harmful ingredients.
Compromising with the health of young children isn’t only a crime but it also means that you are playing with the future of your country.
Ronish Baxter: Writer Bio
Ronish Baxter is a sports management graduate as well as fitness enthusiast who loves to write and discuss about sports and sometimes varied topics as well. He has vast experience when it comes to fitness training and has even been part of prestigious sporting events like the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and other sporting events. When he is not working, he either spending his time travelling or simply lazying around in his home.