In the first six months of the year, the Ministry of Commerce’s Consumer Protection, Competition and Fraud Repression directorate-general (CCF) has shared details of food safety management techniques and regulations to nearly 20,000 students at school across the country on 31 separate occasions.

Phan Oun, director-general of the CCF, told The Post on June 20 that in the first six months of the year, CCF officials taught food safety laws and shared knowledge of maintaining food hygiene to a total of 17,998 school students across the Kingdom.

He added that this dissemination aimed to give them a more precise understanding of the law, so they could protect their health.

“We hope that this knowledge will enable children and youth to maintain their health through choosing safe foods. They are the bamboo shoots that will one day support the nation,” he said.

Yi Kimthan, deputy country director of Plan International Cambodia, said regular education from relevant institutions is an essential factor of protecting and reducing the impact of unsafe food on children at school.

He expected that several more actions and measures would be taken to ensure that Cambodian children enjoy healthy diets.

“We have observed some vendors selling unhealthy food on school campuses. Sometimes ‘junk’ food is okay, but it can affect children’s healthy development or cause them to fall ill. A poor diet has a detrimental effect on their learning and intelligence,” he said.

UNICEF Cambodia has reported that more and more children across the Asia-Pacific region are growing up in food environments that promote the sale and consumption of ‘junk’ foods and drinks, rather than healthier alternatives. As a result, more than one in three adolescents are drinking at least one sugary drink a day, more than half consume fast-food once or more a week, and less than half are eating enough fruit and vegetables every day.

“Today, children and young people are surrounded by junk-food marketing wherever they go: online, on their way to school, college or university, on television, and even while standing in the checkout-line of the grocery store. The result is that too many children in East Asia and the Pacific have poor, unhealthy diets. This is having a devastating impact on their health and well-being,” it stated in its recently released report.

The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, along with educational establishments across the country, has once again reminded vendors at schools across the country not sell banned high-sugar or high-fat foods that may affect children’s health.

Ministry spokesman Ros Soveacha said that the cooperation of several government institutions, development partners, civil society organisations and the private sector was a positive indicator that the lessons were taking hold.

“The participation of relevant actors, including students, their parents and local authorities, is also an essential contributing factor to the work that is being done to strengthen the implementation of the food safety protocols that have been advised by the education ministry,” he added.

The ministry has notified schools across the kingdom that several categories of food and drink are banned from sale on school grounds. They include expired food and alcohol and tobacco products, as well as unlabelled foods. Also on the list are unhealthy items like energy drinks and other sugary or caffeinated beverages, along with ice cream, candy, sugary cakes and processed fruit snacks.