Saturday, December 14, 2013

Mid-day Meal: Authorities Insensitive to DPI Circular

To prevent another mid-day meal tragedy on the lines of the one in Bihar which claimed the lives of 23 schoolchildren in July, Director of Public Instruction (DPI) Biju Prabhakar, who is also in-charge of the Food Safety Department, issued a circular, with 21 crucial directives, on October 30 to all schools in the state to ensure safety in mid-day meal supply. However, the school authorities are turning a blind eye to the directives.
 The circular, issued two months ago, had no impact on the schools so far. The circular instructs each school to register their kitchen under the Food Safety Department (FSD) with proper details of the storage facility, kitchen facility, health of kitchen employees, hygienic measures taken etc. But so far, the FSD has not received even a single application from any school for registration.  February 4, 2014 is the last date for submitting applications. The circular also instructs the authorities of schools to ensure the fitness of kitchen employees by conducting periodical medical checkups. This directive was also not taken into serious consideration by schools. “There are high chances for diseases to spread from cooks to kids through food. So the health of cooks must be ensured. Diseases such as typhoid can be transmitted through unclean food habits,” M K Appunni, retired DMO, said.
 The Food Safety Department conducted inspections in the schools across the state a few months ago and it revealed that kitchens in most of the schools were functioning under unhygienic conditions. “None of the schools have proper storage facilities and due to this the grains are getting spoiled. Kitchens in all the schools are functioning under unhygienic conditions. It is the key reason why the directives were issued,” Food Safety Officer Mini A K said.
 School headmasters complain that they have not received any proper directives in this regard. “I saw the circular on the Education Department’s website but I did not get any directive from the Deputy Director of Education yet. Anyway let me look into it,” Head Master of Kalanjoor LP School, Konni, Sree Kumar K said.
 “We issued such a circular to create awareness among the school authorities. We will assist them in implementing the directives. We sought Central Government fund for its implementation,” Biju Prabhakar said. He also said this was not the phase for taking action against anyone. “Our sole intention is to make the school authorities aware of healthy ways to prevent diseases. Once this phase gets over, we won’t compromise and strict action will be taken against all those who violate the norms in the circular,” Biju Prabhakar said.
 Some of the Major Directives
■ A senior teacher will ensure whether food is supplied strictly under the Food Safety Regulations Act or not. The teacher must also be a member of the Food committee. In addition to the senior teacher, a doctor from the Primary Health Centre and a representative of students must also be there in the Food committee.
■ Food materials should be bought only from a shop registered under the Food Safety Act.
■ Food materials must be stored in safe storage rooms.
■ The contact number of the Food Safety Officer should be displayed on the notice board of schools.
■ Mandatory chemical and microbiological tests must be done periodically to ensure the quality of drinking and cooking water.
■ Kitchen staff must be free of diseases and periodical health checkups must be done.
■ Cooking should not be done in open air.
■ Keep urinal, latrines etc away from the kitchen and must be cleaned.
■ Drainage must be covered.
■  Kitchen workers should have separate living rooms.