Guidelines issued for serving lunch to schoolchildren

The suspected presence of Shigella bacteria in the stool samples of some of the schoolchildren affected by food poisoning at a lower primary school near Koyilandy has led the Kozhikode district administration to issue guidelines for serving lunch at schools.

Over 40 children of Keezhppayyur West L.P. school were admitted to hospitals on June 21 after they complained of vomiting and diarrhea. It was claimed that the mid-day meal served on June 19 could have been the reason. However, the authorities are yet to zero in on the source of infection a week after the incident though samples of water and powdered spices had been sent to the laboratory for testing. Though the final report is yet to come, it had been reported that presence of Shigella bacteria was found in the stool samples of some of the students when it was tested at the Government Medical College lab.

Against this backdrop, the district administration on Thursday asked schools to strictly follow norms while serving lunch. It also warned of action against the nodal officer in charge of lunch under the Disaster Management Act if there are lapses. This was decided at a meeting of officials from Education, Health and Food Safety departments, chaired by Shamin Sebastian, Deputy Collector in charge of disaster management.

School committees with parent-teacher association president, mother PTA president, headmaster, grama panchayat ward member, two teachers, and a student representative as its members would be responsible for the distribution of food. The teacher chosen as nodal officer would be in charge of the food distribution. The quality of water, rice and other cereals, and vegetables being used for food preparation should be ensured. The vessels should be cleaned before cooking and the plates being used by students should be washed in warm water. Mixing of hot and cold water should be avoided.

The committee should ensure that the cooks are efficient enough and their age and physical fitness should be examined. It should conduct an audit of the food distribution and pass on the details to the Assistant Educational Officer. They should be handed over to officials of the departments of Health and Food Safety during inspections.

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