School canteens still serving unhealthy food, says Liow

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School canteens still serving unhealthy food, says Liow

Post  Tee Yee Yean (U6B/'10) on Sun Aug 15, 2010 4:32 pm

PETALING JAYA: Most school canteens still sell unhealthy food and snacks that can influence the eating habits of children and contribute to rising childhood obesity in the country.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said checks showed that many canteens were still selling fried food that did not meet the minsitry’s guidelines on healthy food.

He said children spent at least a third of the day in school and ate at least one meal at the canteen because most working parents were unable to pack lunches for their children. It was thus important to ensure that meals served in schools were nutritious.

“The sale of fried food such as fried mee, bee hoon, rice, chicken, keropok lekor and nuggets in canteens has negated the Government’s efforts to promote healthy eating as part of a healthy lifestyle,” he told The Star yesterday.

Liow stressed that food sold in canteens could influence the eating habits of children even as they progressed into adulthood.

A recent survey on 10,000 children aged between six and 12 revealed that 24 % were either overweight or obese, and the incidence of obesity increased with age. Obesity could lead to diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol which would eventually develop into cardiovascular or lifestyle diseases.

To ensure that schoolchildren get nutritous food, Liow urged canteen operators to follow the guidelines drawn up by his ministry and the Education Ministry on the types of food to be sold.

Liow also urged the operators to use healthier cooking methods such as steaming, boiling, grilling and baking. Plain drinking water should also be made available to school children at all times.

Deputy Education Minister Datuk Dr Wee Ka Siong said it was the duty of the heads of schools to ensure that food sold in canteens was nutritious.

He, however, believed low budget was one of the reasons for the poor quality of the food sold.

“Canteens are not allowed to sell their food at higher prices as most school children have limited pocket money to spend,” he added.

Dr Wee hoped canteen operators would follow the Guidelines on the Management of School Canteen 2008 although it was not mandatory.

National Heart Institute chief dietician Mary Easaw-John suggested that canteens prepare more nutritious meals such as different types of porridge, noodle soup or stir-fried noodles, stuffed beancurd and sandwiches. For dessert, they could serve fruits, soya jelly or banana cakes.
Tee Yee Yean (U6B/'10)
Tee Yee Yean (U6B/'10)

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