For many children around the world, school meals are the only meals consumed throughout the week. But now, Egypt is suspending its meal program food poisoning took over the nation.
The education ministry in Egypt officially suspended all school meals throughout the country this week. Several outbreaks of food poisoning throughout the country left hundreds of children ill. The ministry said they are forming a committee to find the cause of the outbreaks and determine how to handle the situation. There were more than 4,500 food poisoning cases in March alone.
The ministry reported at least 435 children became sick from food poisoning in public schools. Their schools provided them government-issued meals, which were produced by a military-owned company. Furthermore, officials expect at least 3,000 more children may have food poisoning after showing similar symptoms. At least 211 cases stemmed from the Suez province, 98 cases came from the Aswan province, and at least three were from Cairo. However, the most highly affected areas are Monoufiya, Sharqiya, Beheira and Sohag.
The ministry’s official statement said, “Ambulances took [sick students] to hospitals to receive the necessary medical care.” The hospitals reported students experienced stomach aches, vomiting and fevers.
Sobhi Abdelrahman, nutrition director at the Education Ministry, said the program suspension includes all meals from affected schools. Every day, public schools are responsible for providing meals to approximately 9 million students nationwide.
“We are waiting on the findings of the public prosecution, who is investigating the case,” he said.
In an early press conference on March 23, officials said the meal suspension is a precautionary measure. Additionally, they reported that a preliminary investigation found no microbes in the distributed food that links to food poisoning.
Meal programs in Egyptian schools
The government created a meal program in 2015 to provide children with meals. The European Union helped fund the project as part of the United Nations World Food Program.
Officials designed the program to help feed thousands of students with snacks and take-home rations. It also provides nutritional training for teachers. Accordingly, officials emphasized the program in the country’s most remote and impoverished areas.
There is no direct link between the program and the food poisoning outbreaks.