The Koh Kong provincial education department has called for inspections on the hygiene of foodstuffs sold at public and private schools across the province’s seven districts.

The move comes as part of a broader effort to promote food safety and welfare in schools, and address concerns over food poisoning.

An August 8 letter from department director Nget Leung revealed worrying reports by health officials and parents.

Some teachers, education staff and students have been affected by consuming uncontrolled food such as expired, poorly cooked or unsuitable items, including very sweet and unhygienic beverages.

“I would like to ask the boards of governors to encourage the director of the education offices in the seven districts to inspect the sale and hygiene of cakes and food in public and private educational institutions properly,” read the letter.

Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport spokesperson Ros Soveacha spoke on August 9 about the necessity of responsible sales in schools, in line with school regulations and contracts with sellers.

He emphasised the established guidelines that help to prevent the sale of six types of food and the ministry’s structured administrative measures.

“The school management team shall manage the sales that are in accordance with the sales contract on the school premises. If the sale is contrary to this contract, the school management can implement administrative measures in force,” he said.

Ros Soveacha also noted the importance of collaboration with local authorities, parents, students and all stakeholders for the success of these guidelines. Everyone, he said, must work together to prevent the sale of unhealthy foods in schools.

“The ministry has continued to pay close attention to monitoring the health of students and educational staff at all levels through existing mechanisms, especially through the ministry’s school health department and the disaster management team in the field of education,” he added.

The ministry is also urging teachers and school management committees to focus on students’ health, an essential aspect that can significantly impact their education. They are to keep an eye on food safety and related issues.

According to Soveacha, the ministry has integrated health content into the curriculum from primary school to grade 12 and instructed school management to spread the ministry’s guidelines throughout the country.

Cambodian Independent Teachers Association president Ouk Chhayavy endorsed the ministry and relevant authorities in inspecting food at schools at this time, reflecting the collective responsibility of all involved in the educational system to ensure a healthy environment for students.

Chhayavy extended her request for action. Not only should all schools be inspected for the safety and health of students, but authorities should also consider food and snack sales in local markets. This is because before reaching schools, these items are often sold in the markets.

“Before we even look at the sale in schools, we must also focus on what is being sold in the markets. These are the sources of the food and snacks that end up in educational institutions,” she said, emphasising the importance of a broader examination of food safety that extends beyond school gates.