Schools must be more careful about food hygiene

I read with concern that about 200 students from Raffles Institution had fallen ill after their graduation event's buffet meal because this is not the first time I am reading about such suspected cases of mass food poisoning affecting our schools (About 200 RI students fall ill after buffet meal; Oct 24).

Each time it happens, many students suffer from what was ironically a happy occasion, parents are worried and pained at seeing their children in discomfort and school staff have to busy themselves trying to find out how their students are and account for what happened to parents and the Ministry of Education (MOE).

I am sure the caterers, if found to be at fault, would have had actions taken against them by the authorities. Yet, such mass food poisoning cases seem to be hitting our schools time and again.

Perhaps the National Environment Agency and Ministry of Health need to take firmer action against caterers who are found to be responsible for food poisoning cases.

MOE and schools should also blacklist repeat offenders.

In addition, these caterers should be made to attend courses on hygienic food preparation and serving again, while the importance of ensuring that catered food is served under hygienic conditions and consumed before it goes bad should be reiterated to the relevant school staff.

Schools should also remind their students to wash their hands with soap and water, and provide them with the adequate facilities to do so.

This may seem obvious or even trivial but, on some occasions, the buffet may come after games or other activities when the students' hands come into contact with germs.

When there are many hungry and thirsty students rushing to the buffet, all caution is thrown to the wind.

In the light of repeated cases of mass food poisoning hitting our schools, it would not hurt to be less complacent and more careful when it comes to food and personal hygiene.

Edwin Pang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 26, 2018, with the headline 'Schools must be more careful about food hygiene'. Print Edition | Subscribe