Malaysia's health ministry to check more school canteens for unhygienic conditions

KUALA LUMPUR - The Health Ministry will step up inspection of school canteens to ensure students are not exposed to unhygienic conditions, said director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

"The ministry is highly concerned about the unhygienic conditions of schools canteens and will take stern action against operators who do not comply with the regulations."

Section 11 of the Food Act 1983 provides unhygienic food premises ordered closed immediately for a period not exceeding 14 days.

If the operator fails to comply, he is liable, on conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or a fine or both.

The Food Hygiene Regulations 2009 outlines general requirements for food premises, including school canteens.

"It is the responsibility of the proprietor, owner or occupier of food premises, to adhere to these requirements," Dr Noor Hisham said.

He said the ministry had inspected 9,125 and 8,288 school canteens in 2011 and last year.

Consequently, 190 (2.1 per cent) and 112 (1.4 per cent) school canteens were ordered to close in 2011 and 2012, respectively, under Section 11 of the Food Act 1983 because of poor hygiene.

From January to July this year, 7,229 school canteens were inspected, out of which 99 or 1.4 per cent were ordered to close.

Dr Noor Hisham urged parents or the public to report irresponsible canteen operators to the nearest District Health Office or State Health Department or through the Food Safety and Quality Division website at

"If they notice any unhygienic food premises or unhygienic food handling practices, they should immediately report it to us for action to be taken."