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Mid-day meal deaths could have been prevented: UNICEF

July 18, 2013 22:22 IST

The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund on Thursday said the deaths in mid-day meals in Bihar could have been prevented with strict adherence to protocols for preparing the meal.

UNICEF said it is in touch with the concerned authorities to understand what happened and find ways to prevent such incidents from taking place in future.

"While acknowledging that India's mid-day meal scheme is the largest school feeding programme in the world and that the government is working to strengthen and improve its management, UNICEF considers that increased actions must be urgently taken," the UN agency said in a release in New Delhi. It noted that the protocols for adequate and safe preparation of the midday meal are in place. They include keeping the cooking place and utensils clean and free from insects and flies, adequate and safe storage space, proper washing of vegetables and other ingredients before cooking, proper personal hygiene of the cook and helper, tasting of food before serving and hand washing with soap by children before eating. (more) PTI

"The implementation of these protocols is, however, a challenge. Improved management and quality control of the mid-day meal scheme implementation by the school authorities and communities is critical," UNICEF said.

UNICEF said it is working closely with the ministry of human resource development, responsible for the implementation of the midday meal scheme, to improve water, sanitation and hand-washing with soap in schools, and specifically to advocate that all children, midday meal supervisors, cooks and teachers wash their hands with soap before food preparation and eating.

Image: A woman sits by her son who fell ill after consuming lunch in a school in Bihar

Photograph: Reuters

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