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DoH school inspection closes two cafeterias and one classroom — so far

With the Department of Education’s new school year set to start on August 12, 2013, there are serious problems with some facilities. As of yesterday afternoon, the Department of Health has closed down two cafeterias and one classroom. This was confirmed by Chief Compliance Officer at the Department of Health Papali’i Marion Fitisemanu, in response to Samoa News queries.


Last week Friday, the Aua Elementary School cafeteria was closed down, while Pago Pago Elementary School cafeteria was shut down yesterday morning, along with Matafao Elementary’s Early Childhood Education classroom.


According to DoH, the cafeterias have evidence of insects and improperly washed surfaces that come in contact with food and the cafeterias need a lot of work, especially sanitizing the area where food is prepared for the students.


Papali’i told Samoa News that when it comes to food handling — where food is being cooked and prepared — hygiene must be adhered to. He said their team conducted an inspection of where the food is prepared and he said the conditions were "deplorable".


He added they are looking at condemning the ECE classroom at Matafao due to the presence of rats and roaches, which is a health hazard to the students.  


Papali’i said the DoH has established a new task force that will inspect all the public and private schools, elementary and secondary, to meet the governor’s demand that all schools must be inspected by the DoH before school starts next week.


He explained there will be five groups made up of five members each, who will conduct assessments for each and every school on island, including ECE classrooms.


Papali’i explained their task forces’ main targets are the cafeterias, where food is prepared, but inspection includes the dining areas as well. He further noted that despite schools being scheduled to open next week, if the DoH comes across unacceptable classrooms and cafeterias, the health inspectors will not hesitate to do their job, given that this is our children’s health that is in jeopardy.


A health inspector, who wished not to be named, said in one of the inspections they conducted they found numerous instances of rat droppings, which is among the critical violations. He added that many people are not concerned, yet in reality we are talking about life or death for our children.


“You have children — whose immune systems may not be that of an adult. They are susceptible to more and if there is a pathogen in food because of improper handling or temperature controls, you can really get someone sick,” he explained.


He noted that improper food handling, not maintaining proper food temperature, rats and other rodents, and contaminated food are some of the most dangerous violations which they came across during their inspections of the cafeterias.


These types of violations can force the closure of any school or cafeteria, according to the health inspector, who noted that they tagged the school cafeterias for having everything from flies to rats.