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Ministry urges schools uphold harmful food ban

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School children buy food from a street vendor in Phnom Penh. Heng Chivoan

Ministry urges schools uphold harmful food ban

The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport has renewed calls for all educational establishments across the country to uphold the ban on the sale of unhealthy or unsafe food, after finding that some are still failing to comply with food safety guidelines.

Ministry spokesman Ros Soveacha told The Post on Tuesday that teachers were being urged to pay greater attention to the health of their students, something that is of huge importance to their ability to study.

“The Ministry of Education has been working since the previous mandate to raise the awareness of health as a factor in effective student studies."

“The ministry has forbidden educational establishments from allowing students to have unsafe and unhealthy food, publicising in detail the guidelines, including as part of the primary school curriculum."

“All relevant parties, especially school management, across the country are to publicise the guidance,” Soveacha said.

The ministry’s Facebook page on Monday reminded about Directive No 18, dated May 2, on the promotion of food safety at public and private educational establishments.

This prohibits the selling of expired food, alcoholic beverages, cigarettes, food without a clear source, energy drinks and sugary drinks to students.

Coffee, ice cream, syrup water, chocolate, chewing gum, jelly, doughnuts and sweets are also all banned.

The directive also prohibits foods that are too salty, fatty and high in sugar.

Schools must only allow healthy food, such as high-quality and hygienically cooked rice, bread, Khmer noodles, porridge and fruit, it says.

The director of the Phnom Penh Department of Education Hem Sinareth told The Post on Tuesday that his department holds meetings every year to instruct educational establishments to ban unhealthy and unsafe food. However, poor quality food had been inevitably sold at some schools, he said.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
School children consume food and drinks from a street vendor in Phnom Penh. Heng Chivoan

“When we saw vendors selling poor quality food, we instructed them to improve and they did so. Some vendors may have sold expired food without us seeing them,” Sinareth said.

Leng Vanny, an English teacher at the Hun Sen High School in Tbong Khmum province’s Peam Chileang district, said that the school’s senior leadership had recently met with vendors who operated outside the school, prohibiting them from selling certain foods.

However, some energy drinks were not banned, he added.

A Grade 12 student in Peam Chilang district said she ate packed meals such as cooked rice brought to school and drank energy drinks almost every day, which was bought in the village before arriving at school. She said she wanted to eat healthily, knowing it could improve her concentration.

She said she had recently stopped drinking energy drinks after they were banned from being sold near the school.

“Now I buy pure clean drinking water to drink with Khmer snacks that are sold at schools, such as seaweed snacks, grilled bananas and dumplings,” she said.

Met Ty, a resident of Pi Thnou commune in Kratie province’s Snuol district, told The Post on Tuesday that he banned his two children who were in grades 3 and 4, from buying snacks and soft drinks because they were low in quality and could affect their health.

“Snacks such as candy are not good,” Ty said, adding that he gave each child a school allowance of two thousand riel, while his wife often cooked meals for them to take to school and fed them before they went.

A World Health Organisation study found that energy drinks can cause health problems in young children, while some European countries had passed laws banning their sale to minors.

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association in May, caffeine in energy drinks can cause health risks such as high blood pressure.

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