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Primary school students rest on the floor of the Takeo Referral Hospital last year after they contracted food poisoning. Photo supplied

Health depts ordered to do hygiene checks

In response to a growing number of food-poisoning cases, Health Minister Mam Bunheng has issued new food safety inspection guidelines to all provincial health departments.

A letter from the Health Ministry on Tuesday mandates inspections every three months for places where food is sourced, produced, stored and handled. Local health departments, which will be required to submit regular reports to the ministry, have also been ordered to “educate” the public, restaurant owners and especially street vendors on good hygiene practices.

“We need to conduct inspections at canteens and restaurants every three months to examine the food handling process, to check for signs of contamination,” Health Ministry spokesman Ly Sovann said yesterday.

He added that while food sold in canteens and restaurants are potential sources of food poisoning, the greatest risk comes from street food. “People of all ages should be vigilant, but we are most concerned about schoolchildren as they enjoy eating street food and snacks that may be unsanitary,” he said.

Just last week, some 200 children in Pursat province were treated for food poisoning after eating allegedly tainted rice.

But whether or not provincial departments have the staff necessary to conduct inspections of thousands of restaurants and food distributors is far from certain.

Ouk Vichea, deputy health director for Battambang province, said his department simply did not have enough resources. “We only have two to three people to inspect Battambang.”

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