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Poisoning with school lunch: How to protect Ukrainian children?

Author : Anna Peshkova

Source : 112 Ukraine

Rags for the shelves are used to wipe the plates in which meat with dangerous bacteria is placed. And this "wonderful dish" is served to children by unwashed hands after the restroom
23:20, 25 October 2021

Open source

There are so many problems with food in school canteens: not only is it inedible in the overwhelming majority of cases, and the amount of meat in cutlets is questionable - the food that little Ukrainians eat is often very dangerous.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the Ministry of Health tested more than 9 thousand workers in schools, kindergartens and sanatoriums for staphylococcus. It turned out that every tenth person is sick. Moreover, most of these workers are employed in schools.

What is the danger of school food and who is to blame for the undermined health of students?

Poisoning cases have increased

Ukraine has an adapted international law on food safety: school lunches and breakfasts are subject to scheduled and unscheduled inspections. They were just provoked by the recent scandal in the Khmelnytsky region. Staphylococcus aureus poisoned 92 schoolchildren and one mother: this woman and 14 other children even ended up in an infectious diseases hospital.

Laboratory experiments showed that the bacterium found in the bodies of four canteen workers and got into three types of dishes. In this regard, criminal proceedings were opened.

It was after this resonant incident that the head of the Ministry of Health Viktor Lyashko announced "sudden checks" throughout Ukraine, "in order to avoid similar outbreaks in educational institutions in the future and to protect our children from poisoning." Moreover, President Volodymyr Zelensky personally instructed to work out the legal mechanisms for carrying out these checks.

The close attention to this issue is not surprising. The wife of the president is just patronizing the reform of school meals, which will be launched in 2.5 months. “New school meals", however, linked more with recipes than the quality of the products themselves and compliance with sanitary and epidemiological standards. But if you do not ensure the safety of the products, there will be no point in this program.

It is noteworthy that the tests were carried out directly for the cases of Staphylococcus aureus. What other problems could be found in workers remains a mystery.

Staphylococcus aureus often becomes a catering problem. This case was discovered in Kharkiv in June, and therefore two restaurants had to be closed. The State Consumer Service stated that a sick worker was the likely source of the outbreak. During a wedding banquet in Lviv, 59 people were poisoned.

Analytical summaries of the State Consumer Service make it clear that in 2021 Ukrainians complain about catering in educational institutions much more often than in 2020 and 2019. In the first half of this year, caring parents wrote 35 appeals with a request to conduct inspections in school catering facilities. This is only three less than for the whole of 2019. Almost all of the complaints were not unfounded.

However, the service itself informally tells us that it is impossible to talk about a significant deterioration in the situation with poisoning. Especially after the outbreak in 2017-2018, when not only staphylococcus, but also coliforms and listeria were found in every third food sample. However, the fact that a rare quarter passes without fixing an outbreak of poisoning in educational institutions demonstrates a sad trend.

What is the danger of staphylococcus aureus in food

"The excess in staphylococcus indicates a violation of the sanitary state of the employees themselves," Elena Sidorenko, professor of the Department of Commodity Science, commented to 112.ua.

By itself, staphylococcus in a small amount does not pose a threat. On the surface of the skin, this bacterium can be found even in a healthy person. Much also depends on the degree of presence of colonies: more than 10 to the 6th degree are dangerous.

A colony can develop if the carrier has a reduced immunity: for example, he is infected with a virus or passes the postoperative period. Situations in which staphylococcus enters the body through a fracture and any open wound are dangerous. Even just an infection on the skin leads to rashes. The danger lies in the fact that most often it is children who suffer from the consequences of the development of this coccus.

It is difficult to identify in any way the presence of staphylococcus without tests. You can suffer from sore throats and not guess that they are provoked by this infection, which is calmly located on the mucous membrane of the throat. Or for years to live with staphylococcus in the nose, which one day will manifest itself with a cold. The presence of a coccus is obvious, unless with nausea, a sharp increase in temperature, a rash. By the way, during the last checks in schools and kindergartens, some workers had staphylococcus in an inactive phase. That is, they were carriers without even realizing it.

Treatment can take from a week to a month. Only some antibiotics and local treatment (if any) are effective. In parallel, the patient is prescribed vitamins, immunomodulators.

An employee's medical book is more fake than not

Checking for staphylococcus aureus is included in the list of necessary medical records, the presence of which is required for work. The presence of bacteria in food may indicate that employees have not received proper medical examinations.

Checks in 2017 in Kyiv showed that 62% of records were forged. The head of the Moscow State Food and Consumer Service reported that preschool institutions are in second place in terms of the number of falsified medical records among employees. In the first place in such an anti-rating is catering. But there is still "street food", stalls with shawarma. They don’t even have a manual for workers — not even sinks with running water.

In October of the same year, a woman entrepreneur was exposed in the capital for issuing 40 fake medical records. We are still recording similar proposals on the Internet today. Moreover, the prices for documents are quite modest due to low demand. The main request of the "buyer" is now for vaccination certificates.

Related: Why autumn Covid-19 wave plunges Ukraine into turnoil?

Checking the availability and relevance of records for food workers is important to protect the health of children. But even they cannot 100% ensure the safety of food - after all, from the moment of passing the examination, the employee has a high chance of becoming infected and posing a threat to others.

The low cost of meals should include not only the cost of food, but also the salary of the entire staff of the catering unit. The number of personnel is reduced, but the workload does not decrease. The vigilance of employees to comply with sanitary standards is reduced. For example, 112ua.tv spoke with a food worker at one of the Kyiv schools.

"The load is hellish. Of course, no one washes anything by hand, there is a dishwasher. But in order to load it, you need to clean off the remnants of food and rinse the plate under running water. The shift should end at 2 pm, but usually it is at least 5 pm. It happens that you don't have time to eat, let alone leave on time. So it turns out that you use one rag for dishes and shelves. Or colleagues, for example: although they serve pies in gloves, but with the same gloves they take money, "says the woman.

Of course, low wages do not justify poor performance at all. Whatever the reasons for the violations, the employee who committed the violation is personally responsible for them. By the way, like the director, after all, it is he who is entrusted with the obligation to organize meals in an educational institution. He is responsible for the life and health of students and employees.

But not a single director either. In the overwhelming majority of cases, food for pupils in regional centers is prepared by employees not of educational institutions, but of communal enterprises that have won a tender for the provision of such services. The management of enterprises is responsible for the quality of service, cleanliness of dishes and freshness of products.

How supplier companies earn on students

Two neighboring schools may have signed contracts with different enterprises, and, accordingly, the quality of food in these schools will also be different. Much also depends on how the service provider works. According to employees of educational institutions, usually the more schools one supplier serves, the lower the quality, because the representatives of the enterprise have less opportunity to control the kitchen and purchases.

At the same time, representatives of the supplying companies explain in the media comments that the profitability of their work directly depends on the number of schools they serve. After all, even when concluding a contract with a single school, an office, a warehouse, and a staff are needed.

Honest work without violations in this area means low income. Yes, this statement applies to business in general, but in public catering this rule works with particular force. If a business lunch in an institution near some office costs about 100 UAH (4 USD), then a child's lunch at school is almost three times less. And the service company does not have the opportunity to earn money on schoolchildren all year round, but only for nine months.

By itself, the system of contracts with enterprises creates risks for abuse. Since the cooks in the kitchen are employees of the contracting company, they cannot but accept the products that are brought to schools, unlike the chefs in restaurants or the directors of schools during the Soviet era.

Many companies work for a "trash can", products are reused, their expiration dates are violated. For example, on Wednesday they use fillets that are left over from Monday instead of disposing of them. The conditions for delivering food to school are violated: often there are no thermal boxes and refrigerators in vehicles during the delivery to schools.

“Unfortunately, many service providers in schools work poorly and unsafely, violate numerous rules and regulations. This includes violations of the technological regime: storage conditions for meat, fish, other raw materials, dishwashing, medical examinations of employees, this is an understatement data on the weight of portions, failure to provide statements on calibrated measuring instruments ", said the head of the State Food and Consumer Service of Kyiv Oleg Ruban during one of the press briefings.

If one or two cases of poisoning in schools can be attributed to the theory of probability and force majeure beyond the control of the company, then the systematic nature of these cases may indicate an attempt to make money by saving on schoolchildren.

Related: CovidUkraine: 14,634 new cases over last 24hrs

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