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Schools Urged to Improve Sanitation After Food Poisoning Cases
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China's Ministry of Education has ordered local education departments to inspect sanitary conditions and the cleanliness of food and drinking water in all schools in their jurisdictions.

The ministry on Thursday issued a circular concerning responsibility for food security in schools, in response to two recent food poisoning incidents among students.

Local education departments and school leaders are responsible for students' health and should always keep in mind the "health first" guideline, said the circular.

Schoolmasters should be the first to answer for food poisoning and those involved in the incidents should be held accountable, it said.

Local education departments and schools should give special attention to food security and bowel disease control work at the beginning of the new semester.

The two recent food poisoning cases happened on Sept. 1, the first day back to school after the summer vacation. There is no regular cleaning and disinfection of school kitchens and dining halls during the month-long vacation.

The notice ordered a prompt check of food and drinking water in schools. Schools with problems will have to lift their sanitation standards to the required level by a certain date.

Those failing to do so will be publicly criticized and punished.

It called for a nationwide educational campaign on knowledge about food poisoning and bowel disease prevention among teachers and students.

Students in rural schools should be dissuaded from drinking unboiled water, eating wild fruits and herbs and buying food and snacks from street peddlers without licenses, it said.

It also stressed that schools should report health emergencies immediately to local disease control centers and educational departments according to related regulations.

About 300 pupils at Chongzhou City Experimental Primary School, in southwest China's Sichuan Province, came down with food poisoning after eating lunch at school last Friday.

The latest test results confirmed that there was bacteria in the food which could cause diarrhea.

Some students from a middle school in Shenyang City, northeast China's Liaoning Province, also showed symptoms of food poisoning after eating dinner in the school cafeteria the same day.

Investigators found that the cafeteria had no sanitary certificate from the local health authorities. None of its cooks and service people had received any health checkups.

(Xinhua News Agency September 8, 2006)

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