There seem to be some new and unwelcome additions to the menu at government facilities. Students at a government school in Delhi are recuperating in hospital after they consumed a mid-day meal in which a dead rat was allegedly found.
Some students were admitted to hospital after they started feeling nauseous and complained of acute stomach pain. Reports state that the mid-day meal supplier is going to be blacklisted. One can breathe a sigh of relief that the boys are recovering, and a bigger tragedy has been averted.
This report comes just days after a special non-vegetarian lunch landed a Chembur hostel in trouble after a lizard was found in it. Nearly 70 students had taken ill, vomiting and falling unconscious and the head cook who tasted the food also suffered the same fate.
The highest priority must be given to hygiene when it comes to meals. It takes precedence over taste. Kitchen facilities need to be regularly inspected. Surprise checks are a must. This will keep the staff on their toes and ensure cleanliness at every stage, from the sourcing to the cooking.
There must be yardsticks laid down for suppliers and those who work in the kitchen. One incident may elicit a warning, but the second should lead to much stricter action, like cancellation of the contract. It is also important that once a supplier is blacklisted, he should not be allowed to start working for another facility, till it is firmly established that he has passed certain levels of cleanliness.
In certain cases, doubts have been raised by meal providers about the authenticity of claims by students. While that may need investigation, there are simply too many complaints to dismiss the issue. Let us make hygiene the most important ingredient in the kitchen from now on.