Proving yet again that safe and hygienic food is a luxury in government schools, a sample of curry served in the mid-day meal failed laboratory tests on Wednesday.
A team of health department had collected samples of curry and boiled rice from Government Middle School, New Subhash Nagar, on May 2 after receiving complaints of unhealthy meal being served to students.
The schoolchildren had complained of finding pests in the rice and that the curry was not of good quality.
According to the report, the potatoes used in the curry were unfit for human consumption. However the sample of boiled rice in which pests were found passed test, despite the health department team confirming that they had found pests in the rice.
Sanjay Dhawan, contractor of the kitchen at the school, said, “I am not aware of any failed sample. None of our employees was present when the samples were collected from Government Primary School, New Subhash Nagar. We are providing healthy food to students. We are running kitchens in Delhi, Chandigarh and other places, but complaints are only reported in Ludhiana.”
When contacted, district health officer Dr Abnash Kumar refused to give details of the report.
However, additional deputy commissioner Rishipal Singh confirmed that a sample of curry had failed test, adding that the report found that the sample was unfit for human consumption. Rishipal said they would take strict action in thi case.
According to the Food Safety and Standards Act, if a sample is found to be of substandard quality, then there is a provision of fine, but if the sample is unsafe, there is provision of both fine and imprisonment.
As many as six cases of unfit mid-day meals being served to government schoolchildren have come to the fore in the past six months in the district.
It is pertinent to mention that a medical officer and a schoolteacher are deputed at the centralised mid-day meal kitchen at Sherpur to ensure that good quality food is being prepared in hygienic conditions for students. However, still six cases of stale and insect-infested mid-day meals were reported.
The centralised kitchen concept to prepare mid-day meals was started on November 16, 2012, to serve food in 150 government primary and upper primary schools in the city. In Ludhiana district, there are 1.79 lakh students, of which 35,000 students in Ludhiana city are served meals cooked in centralised kitchens.
Varinder Pathak, a government schoolteacher, said there should be a procedure for one kitchen to prepare food for a maximum of eight schools, instead of having the centralised kitchen prepare food for over a 100 schools.
“This will reduce the work load and food will be served in a better way. The vegetables should be bought on a daily basis instead of storing them, especially during summer. A local contractor would be better, as he could visit the kitchen daily during preparation of food,” Pathak added.