THE Department of Basic Education (DBE) would like to reassure parents, learners and members of the public that there are no processed meat products used as part of the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP).
This is in light of revelations announced by the Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi regarding the source of a deadly listeriosis outbreak.
The Minister announced that the source of the outbreak was found to be processed meat products such as polony, vienna sausages and other processed cold meat products often consumed by children.
The food served to over nine million learners daily as part of the NSNP is safe and excludes these types of meat products. However, the department would like parents and the greater school community to remain vigilant as these food items often form part of packed lunches or are sold to learners by external food vendors outside of schools or at tuckshops.
Listeriosis is a serious disease that has already taken the lives of 180 people. However, it is preventable and treatable. To this end, the DBE has issued a circular to all provincial education departments and schools on measures to take in order to prevent the spread of listeriosis.
The department has advised schools of the following:
• Volunteer Food Handlers should maintain a high level of personal hygiene and wash hands at all times. Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly. Ensure safe preparation, cooking, serving of meals and cleaning the cooking area.
• Learners should wash any fruit bought from the school vendor before consuming it.
• Practice basic food hygiene principles as outlined in the World Health Organisation’s ‘Five Keys to Safer Food’ programme.
The core ‘commandments’ of food hygiene are:
• Keep clean: wash your hands before handling food and often during food preparation.
• Separate raw and cooked: separate raw meat, poultry and seafood from other foods.
• Cook thoroughly: cook food thoroughly, especially meat, poultry, eggs and seafood.
• Keep food at safe temperatures: refrigerate and reheat foods correctly.
• Use safe water and raw materials: use safe water or make it safe (by boiling); choose foods processed for safety such as pasteurised dairy products; wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly, especially if eaten.
Teachers and parents are encouraged to report to the nearest health care facility if learners present with diarrhoea, headache, neck stiffness, confusion, loss of balance and flu-like symptoms. In instances where children are involved, it is better to be safe than sorry as this is a preventable and treatable disease.
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