School canteens found to be flouting standards
Parents are complaining that their children, especially those in elementary schools, are becoming victims of food poisoning due to the carelessness of food catering companies which supply expired meals to school canteens.
Parents and teachers claim that catering companies are delivering meals which have past their expiry date, leading to a number of students suffering from diarrhea and colic.
Moreover, the companies are also providing unhealthy treats such as chocolates and chips which are jeopardizing their health, complained parents.
The increase in the number of sick children has fueled discontent and prompted nutrition specialists to call for stricter enforcement of regulations at school canteens.
In a recent statement, a food company supplying canteens said it is proud of its contributions toward changing the traditional school food programs, and that all meals are prepared at specialized factories equipped with the latest food processing techniques.
Umm Muhannad, a primary school teacher in Jeddah, said she has lost faith in school canteens and has prohibited her children from buying food at school after both children suffered food poisoning from having eaten at the canteen.
Medical reports have confirm these cases. According to the reports, canteens usually store food for long periods of time even after they are no longer fresh.
They also fail to provide healthy options to children, the reports said.
Farhan Al-Zahrani, a teacher and a parent of three students, said canteens continue to sell harmful foodstuffs such as potato chips, chocolates, and sweets, which are tempting to young children.
Some students also complained that insufficient staff at large canteens have caused many to miss out on purchasing meals in time forcing them to consume junk food.
A nutrition consultant at the University Hospital in Jeddah, Dr. Lamia Hijazi, warned against neglecting the health and nutrition of elementary school students, especially those between 6 and 12 years old.
According to a statement of a company responsible for providing school meals, more than 1,200,000 students in major cities benefit from the program. Company officials rejected the claims of food poisoning due to expired meals, arguing that the issue is the responsibility of some distributors, not the company itself.