Chinese head teachers ordered to eat with pupils after string of food safety scandals

Alice Yan
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Chinese head teachers ordered to eat with pupils after string of food safety scandals

Chinese head teachers have been ordered to eat with their pupils following a string of food safety scandals at schools and nurseries.

The latest incident in Sichuan province last week prompted angry protests outside the school after mouldy food was apparently found in the canteen.

The order that heads eat with their pupils was one of string of directives delivered by three government departments on Tuesday.

They stressed that heads were responsible for food safety and must keep proper records to show they were complying with the rules.

The rules, issued by the Ministry of Education, State Administration for Market Regulation and National Health Commission, also state that schools must provide details of their food suppliers and catering companies to parents.

The directive will also give parents a greater say in the buying and preparation of food as well as the management of the canteens.

When conditions are “suitable”, schools and kindergartens have been told to make arrangements to let parents eat with pupils so they can assess the quality and nutritional value of the food.

Outlets selling snacks and other foods will not be allowed to operate on campus except in exceptional circumstances, and even then they will need approval from the authorities and will be banned from selling foods that are high in salt and sugar.

There will be a ban on serving high-risk foods like wild mushrooms or tomatoes that have sprouted while the use of nitrates – a type of additive used to pickle meats or vegetables – is also prohibited.

School canteens will also be required to keep samples of all the meals they prepare in a fridge for at least 48 hours.

The new rules appear to be in response to a string of scandals that have caused widespread outrage across mainland China.

Last week, hundreds of parents gathered outside a middle school and government building in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan, after parents published photos of mouldy and rotten food they said they had found in the canteen.

A similar scandal in Shanghai in October, where spoiled vegetables and seasonings that had passed their expiry date were found in an international school’s kitchen, prompted the city authorities to order all kindergartens and primary and middle schools to carry out food safety checks.

In other incidents heads have been accused of serving children inadequate meals, raising questions about how the meal budget was being spent.

The new rules received a largely favourable response online. About 20,000 comments were left on news portal 163.com alone on Wednesday, with a majority of them supporting it.

“It’s a good policy. Our neighbour Japan also does something like this,” wrote one commenter.

But another web user said requiring heads to eat with their students wouldn’t be enough to solve the problem, adding that they should be ordered to eat the same food too.

“I heard from one of my relatives that at his kid’s school, teachers’ bowls are full of meat and fish, but there are only plain noodles in the students’ bowls.

“They are eating together, but eating different things.”

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