Jiya Khandekar, a class 9 student of Pawar Public School at Bhandup, used to see the neatly placed tables and chairs in his school canteen and thought the food was hygienic.
DNA Hygiene for Kitchens workshop on Tuesday gave him an insight into hygiene. For the food to be hygienic, canteen staff should wear gloves, hair nets and face masks while cooking, which his canteen did not follow. “The workshop shed light on little things which I have found missing in the canteen. Many misconceptions were cleared. Now I know refrigeration does not kill the bacteria in food but merely stalls their growth for a while,” said Jiya.
Like Jiya, students from city schools said many practices to ensure food safety were probably not being followed in their canteens.
The workshop aimed at making people, especially students, aware about how they could check whether the food was safe to eat.
Durga Mhatre, a class 8 student of Jasudben ML at Khar, said her school canteen might not be following these measures. “In the workshop, we were told that we can tell by the smell whether the food has gone bad. Going by the smell in our canteen, they might be serving us stale food,” she said.
Ashwin Bhadri, head of business relations, at Equinox Labs School, who has conducted audits in school canteens, admits that canteens lack an understanding of the fundamentals of food safety. “Unfortunately, quality is taking a backseat. We find that many schools are giving canteen contracts to those who quote the lowest price and ignore food safety,” he said.
Armed by the knowledge, Srirang Nabar, a class 4 student of Gundecha Academy, said he would demand to see the kitchen the next time he eats out. If the restaurant refuses, he would not eat there. “The food industry will not follow hygiene unless the consumers demand it.’’
Schools need to maintain a balance between quality and economy otherwise the canteen standards might fall as low as that of a street vendor, said Bhadri.
Food hygiene should be given importance and the workshop has reaffirmed my belief in this. It has also made me realise that big health issues can stem from lack of hygiene
—Sanaya Mehta, Cathedral and John Connon School
The workshop taught me a lot of things about hygiene I didn’t know about. It was interactive and I got a chance to ask questions and clear my doubts
—Neev Vora, Rims International School
I developed a new perspective about food and hygiene. Mr Ashwin had a good rapport with the audience and I found the checklist he gave on hygiene essentials useful
—Shruti Surendaresan, Navy Children’s School
The presentation was to the point and the knowledge was handy. It was an exciting experience for me and I hope DNA keeps holding such workshops in future
—Srirang Nabar, Gundecha Education Academy
Hygiene must be a topmost priority for canteens in schools. I got a lot of information in the workshop and I will see to it that at least my school canteen maintains high hygiene standards
—Maanasi Marathe, Pawar Public School