"Pre-made dishes into campus" has attracted heated discussions

Experts advise schools to strictly control food safety and eliminate parents' concerns

Before the discussion entered the campus, pre-made dishes had quietly entered major supermarkets and restaurants. The picture shows tourists shopping for pre-made dishes in Nansha, Guangzhou. Photo by Nanfang Daily reporter Liang Wenxiang

Recently, the introduction of pre-made dishes into school unified catering has set off heated discussions in many places. Many parents are concerned that the inclusion of prepared dishes in school meals may have a negative impact on students' health.

The issue of school food safety has always attracted much attention. Whether prepared dishes are suitable for entering the campus, especially whether they are suitable for long-term consumption by students, involves many aspects such as food safety, balanced nutrition, standard promotion, and industrial development.

Can food safety and nutrition keep up?

To explore the question of whether pre-made dishes are suitable for entering the campus, we must first clarify the concept of pre-made dishes.

According to the standards issued by the China Cuisine Association, pre-made dishes are finished or semi-finished dishes made by pre-processing (such as slitting, stirring, pickling, tumbling, molding, seasoning, etc.) or pre-cooking (such as stir-frying, frying, roasting, boiling, steaming, etc.) with one or more agricultural products as the main raw material, using standardized flow operations.

Prepared dishes are generally divided into four categories: ready-to-eat foods, such as eight-treasure porridge, canned fish, etc.; Instant food, such as quick-frozen dumplings, self-heating hot pot, etc.; ready-to-cook food, such as prepared steak, syrup-free fish fillet, etc.; Ready-to-use foods, such as no-wash and no-cut clean dishes. That is to say, in terms of pre-made dishes entering the campus, in fact, it is necessary to classify and see which type of pre-made dishes have entered the campus.

The focus of this discussion is "Prepared Dishes on Campus". "The school canteen is to allow students to eat safe and fresh meals, if all the pre-made dishes are allowed into the campus, how can the nutrition of the children be guaranteed?" In an interview with reporters, a parent said that "pre-made dishes are resolutely not accepted into the school".

Some parents said that it is understandable that the school introduces some pre-made dishes for the convenience of side dishes, but the most important thing is to ensure food safety and have standards in nutritional matching.

Before entering the campus, in fact, pre-made dishes have quietly entered major supermarkets and restaurants. In recent years, pre-made dishes have been favored by many office workers, chain restaurants and small and medium-sized restaurants because of their rich variety, convenience and labor cost saving.

According to statistics, in 2022 alone, the output value of prepared vegetables in Guangdong Province will reach 545.31 billion yuan, with a growth rate of 3.13%, accounting for 6000% of the country; It has gathered more than 8,5 upstream and downstream related enterprises, accounting for <>.<>% of the country.

With the rapid development of the prepared vegetable industry, its standardization and standardization construction is put on the agenda day by day, and more and more attention has been paid to it.

This year's Central Document No. 2023 "Opinions on Comprehensively Promoting the Key Work of Rural Revitalization in <>" requires that the standardization and standardization level of clean vegetables, central kitchens and other industries be improved, and the prefabricated vegetable industry should be cultivated and developed. Many provinces have also successively issued policy guidance documents to guide and standardize the development of prepared vegetable related industries.

Among them, Guangdong issued the "Ten Measures to Accelerate the High-quality Development of Guangdong's Prepared Vegetable Industry", which directly addresses the pain point of "quality and safety", the development of the prepared vegetable industry, proposes to build a quality and safety supervision and specification system for prepared vegetables, and gradually formulates and improves a series of standards for prepared dishes from the field to the table.

"Pre-made dishes on campus" needs to be regulated

Does pre-made dishes mean unhealthy? "For parents, they want their children to eat healthy, delicious and safe food, and this is something that high-quality prepared dishes can do." Industry insiders believe.

However, even if the quality and safety of prepared dishes can be guaranteed, consumers are not necessarily willing to eat every day, especially if children eat at school for a long time, "selective eating" and "only eating this" are two different things.

"How many local primary and secondary school canteens have introduced prepared dishes requires an open and transparent response." Xiong Bingqi, president of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, said that parents' concerns about "pre-made dishes entering the school" actually reflect the opaque feeding of some school canteens. "To eliminate the worry of pre-made dishes entering the campus, we must first make the canteen meals open and transparent, so that students can eat well, safely and nutritiously."

"On the one hand, the prepared vegetable industry itself lacks clear and unified industry standards, and allowing prepared dishes to enter the school will expose children who are growing up to the risk of uncertainty; On the other hand, the nutrition of prepared dishes is controversial, and the law clearly stipulates that minors must be given special and priority protection, that is, it must be ensured that the food given to children has the highest safety standards and nutritional standards. So at present, there is still controversy about the introduction of pre-made dishes into campus. Xiong Bingqi said.

He suggested that in order to let children eat delicious and nutritious, it is necessary to strengthen the safety risk and nutritional health testing of food materials entering the school, strictly control the pre-made dishes into the campus, and further promote the "bright kitchen bright stove", the school canteen must disclose the source of ingredients, storage, transportation, processing, and meal distribution process, supervise the whole process of canteen operation, and ensure the freshness, safety and nutrition of ingredients.

"Children are a special group and are in the stage of growing their bodies, so it is recommended that schools still ensure that fresh ingredients are provided and try not to choose pre-made dishes." Ye Shuqiang, president of the Guangdong Food Safety Promotion Association, also said, "But the range of pre-made dishes is very wide, and parents do not have to smell the pre-made dishes and change color." The key is to ensure that the meal matching process is open and transparent, and reduce parents' worries. ”

"The problem of pre-made dishes entering the campus should be strengthened." Fan Zhihong, a professor at the College of Food Science and Nutritional Engineering of China Agricultural University, has publicly stated that in the process of preparing food into school canteens, high standards of nutrition and safety should be put forward, enterprises should be urged to increase the nutritional value and safety management of capital investment and expert guidance, and relevant departments should be required to carry out closer supervision and provide various data materials.

On August 8 this year, five departments, including the State Administration for Market Regulation, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Civil Affairs, the National Health Commission, and the State Management Bureau, jointly issued the "Special Action Plan for Governing Food Safety in Centralized Dining Units", and from the date of the release of the plan to the end of this year, special governance actions on food safety problems in centralized dining units will be carried out. The plan requires strengthening the categorical statistics and dynamic management of canteens of centralized dining units such as schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and institutions. (Nanfang Daily reporter Chen Wei Bin Hongxia)