[EDITORIALS]Lunchroom healthThe tainted school meals are causing many problems. Many schools have been forced to change their schedules including final examination dates. Complaints are pouring in from parents who have to make lunch boxes for their children.
Finally CJ Food Systems, the food company that brought about this problem, decided to stop providing meals to schools. It will take time before schools are ready to provide meals to their own students or select another food company to do the job.
This incident showed that even a large company can be put out of business if it provides food of bad quality. In Japan, a big food company went under because it delivered food that had gone bad. Now it has happened in Korea too. Korean consumers do not forgive even a minor mistake when it comes to food quality. CJ Food Systems’ withdrawal is not enough. The company must cooperate with schools or with other companies so that school meal service returns to normal as soon as possible.
The government should take effective measures to equip schools with proper systems to provide meals to their own students. This requires funds for equipment and for wages for nutritionists and cooks. To equip 1,600 schools with such systems is expected to cost 300 billion won ($310 million) initially and 150 billion won each year. This is a large amount of money.
But if we think of this as an investment for the future, the cost looks reasonable. Principals seem to be afraid of this transformation because they fear potential liability for problems, but they should take a more aggressive stance. At this special session of the National Assembly, legislators should discuss six bills to amend the laws and improve school meals. The bills have been neglected so far.
This incident proved that the freshness of ingredients is as important as the quality of cooked meals. We can think about changing the status of food providers from self-employed to registered businesses. We can also think about using agricultural products whose quality has been confirmed by an inspection agency.
In other advanced countries, such as the United States and France, not only ingredients but also cooking procedures are thoroughly supervised according to manuals for school meals. Hygiene is regarded as even more important than taste. The government must set up proper measures so that food poisoning will no longer happen in our children’s schools.
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