DepEd Urged to Tighten Food Safety Policies in Schools Following Successive Poisoning Incidents

An environmental network exhorted the Department of Education (DepEd) to waste no time in tightening policies that could help in promoting knowledge and compliance to food safety regulations in schools.

Reacting to a recent flurry of food poisoning cases in schools, the EcoWaste Coalition urged Education Secretary Armin Luistro to strengthen DepEd’s food safety policies and launch fresh initiatives to promote faithful adherence to them.

From June 14 to July 13 this year, episodes of food poisoning were reported in Larion Bajo Elementary School (Tuguegarao City), Makati High School Annex I (Makati City) and St. Mary’s College (Quezon City), the EcoWaste Coalition observed.

Over 65 students were poisoned by accident, including two young fatalities from Tuguegarao City: kindergarten pupils Eloisa Ballad and Jessica Mae Bangayan, lamented the EcoWaste Coalition.

“We appeal to Secretary Luistro to make healthy and safe school environment a flagship program of DepEd under the Aquino administration,” said Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“By fortifying existing policies and launching fresh initiatives on food safety, we can expect reduced number of injuries and deaths due to food poisoning in schools,” he added.

Among the policies that have to be revisited and reinforced, the EcoWaste Coalition said, include DepEd Order No. 52, Series of 2008 on “Compliance with DepEd Policies on Food Safety in Schools,” DepEd Order No. 8, Series of 2007 on “Revised Implementing Guidelines on the Operation and Management of School Canteens in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools,” and DepEd Order No. 14, Series of 2005 on “Instructions to Ensure Consumption of Nutritious and Safe Foods in Schools.”

“We further request DepEd to revive the ‘Food Safety Awareness Week’ promoted by the late Education Secretary Andrew Gonzalez,” Alvarez stated.

Then Secretary Gonzalez issued DECS Memorandum NO. 435, Series of 1999, in support of Presidential Proclamation No. 160, Series of 1999,”to reduce and ultimately eradicate food poisoning and foodborne illnesses,” specifically in schools and communities.

To prevent food poisoning due to bacterial or chemical contamination, the EcoWaste Coalition advised school administrators, teachers and personnel to adopt, popularize and enforce essential precautionary and preventive measures.

These measures should build on the“five keys to safer food” as espoused by the World Health Organization: 1) keep food clean, 2) separate raw and cooked foods, 3) cook food thoroughly, 4) keep food at safe temperatures, and 3) use safe water and raw materials, the group said.

Also, schools are advised to ban use of hazardous products in school facilities such as toxic cleaning agents, pesticides and laboratory chemicals, promote safe alternatives, including non-chemical substitutes, and ensure environmentally-sound management of all chemicals and discards.