Unhealthy School Snacks Face Renewed Curbs

The Education Ministry has reissued a ban on unhealthy snacks and energy drinks in educational institutions as a social analyst called for strict import controls of such foodstuffs. Photo: MoEYS

PHNOM PENH – The Education Ministry has reissued a ban on unhealthy snacks and energy drinks in educational institutions as a social analyst called for strict import controls of such foodstuffs.

The ministry on Feb. 16 reissued a guideline, dated 2019, for food safety measures in public and private institutions, telling authorities to crack down on unhealthy products in schools.

Expired products, alcohol-contained beverages, tobacco products, unsourced snacks, sweetened and energy drinks, sweet cakes, and gummies are banned in schools.

Ministry spokesperson Ros Soveacha said the ministry had issued the guidelines across the country to help curb the sale of these types of food.

To ensure effective implementation, the ministry had administrative measures in place, instructing school management committees to control food sales on school grounds.

“The school management has a contract between the vendor and the principal,” he said.

“Therefore, the school management must manage the sales that are in line with the sales contract on the school site. If the sale is contrary to this contract, the management can apply the administrative measures in force.”

He said the ministry believed the ban could cut the cases of student food poisoning by raising awareness among parents, teachers and sellers. He encouraged parents to provide nutritious food for children.

Yem Sotheavik, 23, has a 14-year-old brother who weighs 80 kilograms. Her brother is in eighth grade at a private school in Phnom Penh. After school, her brother often consumes greasy snacks such as potato chips, fried meatballs, hot dogs with artificial color, noodles and energy drinks.

His many unhealthy snacks concern Sotheavik, who supported the ministry’s instruction, demanding solid action to crack down on unhealthy products.

Social observer Meas Nee said the effort of the ministry to eliminate health-affecting snacks in school had contributed to reducing them.

However, the instruction alone would not help the schools and the sellers to stop selling such unhealthy products as people do not always pay attention to the government’s announcements.

He said border imports must​ be strictly controlled and authorities should confiscate expired products and those which harm health.

“We don’t know how much the authorities have controlled the products crossing the border while the tax evasion products are the easiest to import,” Meas Nee said.

“If we don’t strictly control the product imports, our country will become a place into which unhealthy products flow and destroy people’s health.”

Asked if the ban could affect sellers’ livelihoods, he said the health of young people and the livelihood of the sellers should be considered as two different things. Sellers could sell other snacks with less effect on the health of children.

Following the instruction, the authorities were seen at one public primary school around Sangkat Phar Doeum Thkov on the morning of Feb. 17, presumably inspecting the site for the snacks.

Ros Soveacha said he has continued to urge all teachers and school administrators to pay close attention to the health of students, which is an important factor that can affect learning.

He said the ministry had incorporated health content into the curriculum from primary to grade 12 and instructed all stakeholders, especially school managements, to pass on the guidelines throughout the country.

“This work has been done by the ministry since the previous mandate to raise awareness to support the health of students and education staff,” he said.

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