Move follows public outcries over recent school canteen scandals
Central authorities have urged officials in Jiangxi and Henan provinces to inspect and eliminate food safety risks in schools and to blacklist substandard food suppliers, according to a statement from the Ministry of Education on Friday.
The move followed public outcries over two rural school canteen scandals this month.
Local officials were summoned by the State Council Education Supervisory Committee Office on Thursday, and were told to take measures to prevent similar cases and punished those involved, the statement said.
The office asked local authorities to raise the bar for food suppliers, blacklist those involved in misconduct, and strengthen supervision of food safety.
The office also urged canteens to publicize data such as food purchase cost, the source of funds and information about the food suppliers, which should be open for media and public oversight.
The office will organize a field inspection soon, the statement said.
Early this month, 25 students from seven schools in Wan'an county, Jiangxi, fell ill after eating school meals suspected of including expired food. Local authorities blamed the case on the schools' failure to adhere to the cold-chain transportation rules. Several local officials were removed or received warnings. All students have recovered and returned to school.
On Sept 12, students at Dacao Primary School in Henan's Shangshui county were found to be served what was far below the nutritional standard set by the local education department. The school principal and a nutrition expert supervising the school were removed the next day.
In 2011, China launched a large-scale plan with a subsidy of more than 16 billion yuan ($2.3 billion) every year to ensure underprivileged children can enjoy free, healthy meals.
One micro blog user named "Jiangziya", who is outraged by the two incidents, said oversight is crucial to prevent such cases from happening again, and suggested that cameras be installed at student canteens.
"Principals and teachers should have meals together with kids," he wrote.
Another micro-blogger suggested that the inspection team should establish a channel with students and let them comment on their meals directly. "Or when the inspection team leaves, the problems would surface again," she wrote.