By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
To avoid possible food poisoning and other incidents that pose health risks to learners, the Department of Education (DepEd) reminded regional and division offices to establish teams that will monitor food safety standards and the guidelines on operations of school canteens.
Following reports of a suspected food poisoning incident involving at least 40 Junior High School students at the Imus Institute of Science and Technology (IIST)–Dimasalang Campus, the DepEd reiterated the “strict enforcement” of its policies and guidelines on healthy food and beverage choices in schools, learning centers, and DepEd offices.
While its existing orders on the operation and management of school canteens – DepEd Order No. 8. s. 2007— cover public elementary and secondary schools, the DepEd also “enjoins all private schools to mandate the strict enforcement of food safety standards in their cafeterias” including the implementation of hygienic practices on food preparation, cooking, display, serving, and storage
“They shall also train all canteen personnel on proper and safe handling of food,” DepEd added.
Citing an incident report from the Health Services Department of the private Cavite school, DepEd noted that around 23 students experienced abdominal pain and vomiting and were given first aid on July 10. The following day, 39 students were examined in the emergency room of nearby hospitals. Ten were admitted at Our Lady of the Pillar Medical Center (OLPMC), three at the Medical Center Imus, and one at St. Dominic Medical Center, with the initial diagnosis of acute gastroenteritis. “Two of them were already discharged as of July 12,” DepEd said.
DepEd said that in the same report – signed by the school’s Vice President for Academic Affairs – noted that the school and its officials “are still awaiting further medical reports from the said hospitals.
Following the incident, classes were suspended at the IIST since Thursday, July 11. “We suspended the classes because there will be no food as the stalls and canteens are closed until further notice,” said IIST Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Loida Sta. Maria in an earlier interview. Classes are expected to resume on July 15, Monday.