According to Mr. Nguyen Dai Ngoc, Deputy Head of the Division for Food Poisoning Management under the Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) Food Safety Management Authority, there are 2,314 food service providers to serve 1,974 educational institutes in the city. Since 2014, 7 cases of food poisoning have been reported, each less serious than the previous.
In the second quarter of 2018, the HCMC Food Safety Management Authority carried out inspections in 317 food service providers for schools and fined 7 of them a total amount of more than VND100 million (US$4,283).
In the first 4 months of 2019, inspectors from this organization cooperated with the HCMC Department of Education and Training, the Division of Healthcare and Division of Education and Training in the 6 districts of 3, 5, 8, 11, Tan Binh, and Binh Thanh to examine food safety conditions in 582 food service providers for schools. Results show that 562 of them, accounting for 96.6 percent, were able to meet the food safety criteria.
Ms. Pham Khanh Phong Lan, Head of the HCMC Food Safety Management Authority, affirmed that schools are the priority of her organization as to food safety, and that regular inspections are made all year round to ensure this.
However, she also commented that these examinations mostly concentrate on delivering guidance rather than fining violators. She shared that in the near future, after the piloting time in certain districts ends, the HCMC Food Safety Management Authority is going to purposely force other districts to follow the lead, with proper praising and punishments. The public are also advisable to help monitoring food safety in schools to ensure transparency and efficiency.
According to Mr. Phan Tri Dung, an expert in the Division of Education and Training of District 11, most state schools are carrying out the ‘Safe Food Chain’ process and have already formed a local food safety management unit. Nevertheless, private schools have not followed this suit yet. Neither have they tried to strictly observe food safety regulations, but mainly assign this responsibility to food service providers.
Therefore, Ms. Bui Thi Diem Thu, Deputy Director of the HCMC Department of Education and Training, asked that schools have to publicly announce the name of their chosen food service providers, meal prices, nutrition of each serving portion for students.
In the upcoming academic year of 2019 – 2020, schools should increasingly encourage the monitoring task among parents to ensure food safety for school meals. “Principals are responsible for food safety in schools and have to end contract with any food safety violators’, said Ms. Thu.
In this academic year, the HCMC Department of Education and Training has piloted the use of safe food among 498 schools in the six districts of 3, 5, 8, 11, Tan Binh, and Binh Thanh. In the following year, this pilot will be expanded to 12 districts and further to the whole city.