Food Industry USDAgov

Published on April 19th, 2012 | by Jessi Stafford


Mass Food Poisonings Create Food Safety Questions

Last week, a strange case of food poisoning amongst elementary school children was suspected to be attributed to school lunches.

Now, those investigating the situation are thinking it might not be as isolated as originally thought. But before you get too freaked out, this incident occurred in China, not in the United States. However, that doesn’t mean safety standards shouldn’t be scrutinized here as well.

Food poisoning put 368 children in a Chinese hospital in early April, but now two other food poisoning incidents have occurred in recent days in the same area. What might that mean?

Well, definitely an oversight in food preparation regulations, and possibly a systemic oversight in the production of food used for school lunches as well. Sound familiar?

Food sickness outbreaks in the same area date even further than the recent incidents: on March 13 bad food sickened 203 students. On April 11, another 203 students at another school became ill.

Researchers think the weird illnesses can be traced back to a new school nutrition program that began in China on March 1. All three school-based food poisoning incidents occurred after that date.

According to the China Daily, poor management and equipment in rural schools meant employees needed more resources to safely implement a new school lunch program.

Essentially, the blame should not lie only with the schools, but with the entire structure:

“Equipping a kitchen will not cost much money, but most rural schools do not have enough money or labor to maintain their canteens properly. And in some remote areas, it is not possible for local health authorities to check sanitary conditions very often…Some schools do not have money to hire a cook, so the teachers and school staff members must often prepare meals when they have time…Also, many remote schools operate without certification from local health authorities,”  said Ding Yadong, public relations officer from the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation.

It seems we might need to pay special attention to reframing our own school lunch system to make sure cutting costs doesn’t negatively impact children’s health.

Image credit: Creative Commons, USDAgov

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About the Author

Social media strategist and writer. Passionate about food policy, education and women's issues. Has written for Vegan Mainstream, The Next Great Generation, Dig Magazine (Baton Rouge), BlogCritics , and occasionally for Vegansaurus . Will accept payments in coffee and/or tofu scramble upon request. Graduate of the University of Missouri with a Bachelor of Journalism.

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