Chinese head teacher sacked over canteen washing up scandal

The head of a primary school in northeastern China has been sacked and a government investigation is underway into the use of laundry washing powder to clean tableware in the school canteen.

The scandal came to light when a video of canteen staff washing up at Dongfeng Primary School in Zuanghe, Liaoning province, went viral on Chinese social media.

The video shows staff, wearing white uniforms and aprons, cleaning plates and bowls in basins containing water tainted with laundry detergent. It is unclear when the incident happened.

In a statement on Weibo, China's version of Twitter, on Tuesday, the municipal government said the head of the school had been dismissed and representatives had been assigned by the authorities to take charge of the school's daily operation.

Due diligence investigations of the relevant department would begin "immediately", the statement said.

The local administration for market regulation had also been ordered to speed up an examination of the food samples, tableware and washing products at the school, and the results would be made public in a timely manner, the authorities said.

Until the investigation is concluded, meals at the school, which has about 400 pupils, will be the responsibility of the municipal education department.

As an added precaution, food safety inspections would be carried out at all elementary and middle schools in the region.

The prompt action by the authorities reflects the wide public attention in China to any food safety scandal which involves children.

The principal of an international school in Shanghai was dismissed in October after parents of students found mouldy tomatoes and onions in a kitchen where food was prepared for pupils.

In May, video footage showing mouldy food in the canteen of a middle school in Chengdu, Sichuan province, triggered angry parents to stage protests outside the school and the local government building.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.