LGUs urged to ensure food safety outside school premises

The Department of Health (DOH) on Sunday reminded local government units to ensure that ambulant food vendors outside school premises will not be selling unhealthy foods to students.

DOH Program Manager for Nutrition Luz Tagunicar said LGUs should do their part in ensuring that unhealthy and unsafe food often sold by ambulant vendors will not be offered to students.

"LGUs should be the ones that would regulate these (ambulant vendors) as the these areas outside the campus are already outside the jurisdiction of school authorities," Tagunicar said.

She said that safety and cleanliness of food cannot be assured among ambulant vendors since the source of water and even the ingredients used for the food and handling were not actually monitored prior to selling.

"They don't have access to clean water needed to cook food and wash their utensils. There is higher risk of having food poisoning or contaminated food that will be harmful to the children," the nutritionist and dietician said.

In addition, the health official added that foods sold by some ambulant vendors like ready-to-eat food products should be monitored since these may be lacking the necessary nutrition for children.

Oftentimes, shed added, they are either too sweet or too salty or are very oily.

She added that excessive sugar and salt and other ingredients are being used to prolong their shelf life.

She warned that as a result of eating these products, children in the long run are bound to get non-communicable diseases like hypertension and even diabetes.

Aside from LGUs, the DOH official said parents are also expected to do their part in ensuring the health and safety of their children.

"If you want your children to eat healthy food, the mothers must be really the one to prepare food. It is very difficult for the mother. But the health of their family today and in the future is really in their hands," she said.

She said parents should influence their children and advised them not to buy food sold outside their schools.

She said parents should be the first ones to remind their children to follow what is best for them like eating the healthy food choices which have less sugar, salt and fat content or avoid sugary drinks and salty foods.

"Sometimes, it is difficult. We need to have tough love when it comes to our children's food," said Tagunicar.

In addition to that, she said it also requires some form of sacrifice for the parents to be creative in the preparation.

Just last week, schoolyear 2017-2018 had officially opened for public schools and some private schools.

Other private schools are also expected to open their classes this week.

The promotion of healthy foods in schools is heightened this year through the Department of Education (DepEd) Order No. 13 issued last March.

Under that DO 13, the DepEd bans sweetened beverage and junk foods in schools.

It likewise promotes selling of foods that will be healthier and nutritious for children.

It also called on schools to coordinate with LGUs on ensuring that healthy foods within certain parameters outside the school premises will be promoted. (Leilani S. Junio/PNA)