MANILA, Philippines – The Makati city government has suspended the operations of the school canteen of the Pio del Pilar Elementary School, a day after more than 100 students who bought snacks there suffered from “food poisoning."
Acting Mayor Romulo “Kid” Peña Jr announced on Friday, January 15, that the city government has issued a cease and desist order against the canteen. He promised a thorough investigation of the matter to avoid a repeat of the incident.
“We are committed to protecting the safety and well-being of our constituents, especially the children,” he said.
On Thursday, 126 pupils from the Pio del Pilar Elementary School were rushed to a health center and hospitals due to dizziness and stomach pains after ingesting snacks bought from the school canteen.
The Makati city government said that all but two students have been discharged as of Thursday evening. One was still under observation at the Ospital ng Makati while the other was still being treated for mild dehydration in another hospital.
On Friday morning, a team from the Makati Health Department (MHD) as well as representatives from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducted an inspection at the school canteen and the surrounding premises.
Food and drink samples obtained from the canteen by MHD sanitary inspectors have been turned over to the FDA and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RTIM) for testing and analysis. These include snacks like biscuits, flavored drinks, tikoy, pianono, polvoron, and brownies.
Vomit specimens from the students were also sent to the RTIM. Results are expected to be released after at least a week.
The FDA is tasked to coordinate with the local health agencies in Manila and Pasay, where the suppliers of the food and drinks from the school canteen are found.
Meanwhile, MHD inspectors found the permits and other regulatory requirements for the operation of the Pio del Pilar Elementary School canteen as valid.
DOH: School admins should ensure food safety
The Department of Health (DOH), in close coordination with the MHD, reiterated the importance of food safety on Friday. (READ: Preventing food contamination: 5 ways to ensure food safety)
“DOH is closely coordinating with the City Health Office of Makati in monitoring the affected patients. Samples of food from the school canteen, commonly taken by the patients were brought to Food and Drug Administration for further analysis,” Health Secretary Janette Garin said in a statement.
She reminded school administrators to ensure cleanliness when preparing and serving food to students and personnel. These include ensuring kitchen areas are free from pests, animals, and chemicals that may contaminate the food, and keeping utensils washed and sanitized.
“Food handlers are also reminded to wash their hands before preparing food and when serving food to their customers. They are also reminded to stay home when sick so they will not contaminate the food being served. Hair nets and masks are also required during food preparation,” Garin said.
The health secretary also advised school administrators to seek a health certificate issued by city or municipal health officers to food handlers employed in school canteens.
Garin also said raw ingredients like meat, poultry, eggs, seafood, vegetables, and fruits must be fresh and cooked properly before serving to customers. During storage and preparation, raw food and cooked food must be separated to avoid cross-contamination, she added.
“Pinapaalahanan natin ang mga nakatatanda na maging maingat sa inihahain o ibinibigay sa ating mga estudyante. Ang paaralan ay itinuturing nilang pangalawang tahanan. Bukod sa edukasyon, pangalagaan natin ang kanilang kalusugan na kayamanan na maibabahagi sa kanilang kinabukasan,” she said.
(We remind the school administration to be careful with the food being served to students. The school is considered as a second home. Apart from education, let us also take care of our students’ health, which is an investment in their future.) – Rappler.com