Recently, there have been reports on mismanagement of mid day meal schemes resulting in the tragic death of some children after eating their mid day meals. Straightway, while reading such articles, one aspect do come in the mind of an average reader - what is the role of Food Inspectors in such schemes!!!. Advanced countries attach importance to the role played by Food Inspectors. Under the Public Health Act, there are sufficient clauses to ensure that Food Premises are inspected on a regular basis to ensure compliance with the Food and Food Handling Establishments Regulation.
Inspections carried out determine if minimum standards and practices are being followed with respect to general food handling, storage temperatures, sanitation, employee hygiene and so on. Public Health Inspectors including Food Inspectors pay particular attention to ensure that food is protected from possible contamination by chemicals or microorganisms and that adequate temperature controls are in place during the heating, cooling and storage of potentially hazardous foods. The general sanitary and physical condition of the premises is also evaluated.
There were also reports in the press that some sections of the teaching community feels they are being unnecessarily held responsible for the above mishap. Some options for tackling this issue could be as follows :
- Amongst the teaching community in various schools, there are allocated teachers responsible for ensuring extra curricular activities of the students, games activities of the students, and so on. On similar lines, Education Department must come out with norms for hiring teachers who can also play an important role as food inspectors simultaneously. Such teachers can be directly made responsible to oversee the entire operations of mid day meal schemes in each school and their recommendations can be taken as the best one for improving this scheme on an ongoing basis.
- Food Inspectors at the State levels need to be appointed in big numbers with additional responsibility of visiting numerous schools wherever mid day meals schemes are going on to ensure that acceptable practices are follows while cooking the food including proper maintenance of cooking utensils (both before cooking and after cooking) and so on.
- It is a fact that today due to rise in the middle income levels of the community, many people feel happy in donating a portion of their income towards free food schemes organised by various groups in the country. Here also Food Inspectors can play important role in overseeing the entire operations on a regular basis.
- There are also some credited associations / organisations who provide certificates to different organisations who produce mass meals/lunch/dinner for the average person on an everyday basis. Such certificates can be obtained by contacting these organisation who will come and do an exhaustive audit of everything that goes into the preparation of the food and then certificates can be prominently displayed for the people to go through. Diferent schools who are also handling mid day meals for their school children may solicit the support of such institutions for conducting an audit on a regular basis. Even organisations, like CAG can come out with reports on a regular basis for strengthening the whole system of mid day meals scheme.
- From CSR view point, this issue offers an excellent opportunity for bringing in all round improvements and therefore different organisations who are CSR oriented can do well to lend their support as much as possible to make this scheme a resounding success in different parts of the country.
- There already exists some organisations which are doing excellent work in providing mid day meals schemes and therefore their support should be solicited from all those schools which are lagging behind in providing the best of the mid day meal schemes. Here the support can be expected to be given to the extent possible.
Basing the above, policy makers are requested to revisit the whole issue of governance in the mid day meals schemes and bring in necessary changes that could make these schemes more popular.
Hoping the above favours consideration at the right quarters.