No processed meats in School Nutrition Programme

Monday, March 5, 2018

In light of the Listeriosis outbreak, the Department of Basic Education (DBE) has assured parents that no processed meat products are used as part of the National School Nutrition Programme.

“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,” the department said on Monday.

The department’s statement is in light of revelations announced by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi which pinpointed processed meats as the source of a deadly listeriosis outbreak.

Processed meat products such as polony, viennas, sausages and other processed cold meat products often consumed by children, were referred to as no go zones by the Health Minister.

“The food served to over nine million learners daily as part of the NSNP is safe and excludes these types of meat products,” said the department.

But the DBE is leaving nothing to chance, warning 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.

Despite being preventable and treatable, the deadly disease has so far claimed 180 lives since its outbreak last year.  

In a bid to prevent any loss of lives, 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.

Schools have been advised of the following:

  • Volunteer Food Handlers should maintain a high level of personal hygiene
  • 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.

Members of the public have also been cautioned to practice the 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 foods 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.

The DBE has also advised teachers and parents to report to the nearest health care facility if learners present signs of 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.

“We urge parents to heed the advice from Health Minister Motsoaledi when preparing lunch boxes for their children to ensure that it contains no food items that may carry listeriosis,” said the DBE. –

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