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The Department of Education (DepEd) on Monday reminded school officials to comply with its 2008 order to ensure food safety in schools following the food poisoning outbreak in Caraga Region that affected nearly 2,000 people.

In a statement, the DepEd said DO 52, issued in 2008, emphasizes the "adherence to standards on quality, handling and serving of food in the school canteen and that food safety standards and hygienic practices are strictly observed and implemented."

DO 52 requires regional directors and schools division superintendents to oversee the management of school canteens and "to underscore the accountability of the school principal" for any incident caused by non-compliance with food safety guidelines. 

It also states that if there are foods in the canteen supplied on consignment basis:
- there should be a written agreement between the concessionaire and school head;
- the school head should ensure that the food supplier has a business permit and sanitary permit;
- the school head/canteen teacher should require a health certificate for the food handlers;
- the canteen teacher shall coordinate with the municipal health office on the periodic monitoring of food preparation and packaging;
- foods should be nutritious, safe and affordable; and
- inspection of the consigned foods shall be made before serving/vending them at the canteen.

Recent cases of food poisoning
Hospitals across Caraga are on white alert after nearly 2,000 people, mostly students, were poisoned by durian and mangosteen candies sold by ambulant vendors.

A report on Balita Pilipinas said the Food and Drug Administration is looking into the possibility of microbial contamination based on the symptoms experienced by the victims.
Seven of the eight suspects in the selling of candies have already faced inquest proceedings.

The DepEd said it is conducting its own investigation on the incident even as most of the affected students have already been discharged from the hospital.

"Debriefing activities are currently being held for the students regarding this issue. Dialogues with parents are also being done to remind them, among others, of the risks of buying food outside the school premises," the department added. 

SOURCE: GMA NETWORK

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