Those responsible for poor health control must be punished
A group of parents have sued the director of a kindergarten in Ansan, Gyeonggi Province, after their children became ill with food poisoning. As of Sunday evening, 114 out of 202 children and teachers at the kindergarten have been infected with enterohemorrhagic E. coli and 16 of them are being treated for food poisoning from undercooked meat that can cause severe kidney failure. Four children are still receiving kidney dialysis.
The first symptom of food poisoning appeared June 12 after a student complained of a stomachache. The kindergarten reported the food poisoning outbreak to the local health authorities only after 10 more students had fallen ill by June 16.
Filing written complaints, the parents asked the police to investigate whether the kindergarten had attempted to destroy evidence by not storing food in accordance with regulations. The kindergarten was slapped with a 500,000 won ($415) fine for violating health regulations for incorrectly storing six snack ingredients between June 10 and 15. The relevant law requires institutions providing meals en masse to properly preserve ingredients for 144 hours to trace the cause of any possible food poisoning. The educational authorities and police should investigate how the E. coli bacteria spread in the kindergarten and take appropriate action against those responsible for poor health control.
The kindergarten director said, "We didn't know that snacks should also be stored like meals." It is dumbfounding that the director of a kindergarten with nearly 200 students was not even aware of the basic rules of meal service. The kindergarten also deserves criticism for not informing parents of the food poisoning outbreak in a timely manner.
The educational authorities should take measures immediately to address the problem that kindergartens are excluded from the list of institutions subject to sanitation inspections with regard to the provision of meals. Kindergartens are obliged to undergo a sanitary inspection beginning next year, through a revision of relevant laws, but many parents are concerned that their children could be at risk of food poisoning prior to the regulation coming into effect.