Catering Company Defends Its Food

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK THE Independence Caterers company has dismissed reports that it is cheating children out of a balanced diet, assuring parents that the food their scholars receive in the hostels is safe and nutritious. The report carried by a local English daily last week said meat products supplied to school hostels contained high levels of sodium which could cause health problems in the long term. But the catering firm yesterday said in response to the article that the food it supplied was safe, balanced and nutritious and that it met the specifications as laid out by the tender document. The report also said that the Catering Association of Namibia (CAN), which consists of seven independent catering companies “functioned as a single entity”. Following these reports, the Ministry of Education said it would launch an investigation into the allegations to verify the facts. Yesterday, the ministry’s Chief Liaison Officer, Toivo T. Mvula, told New Era the ministry would do its own independent laboratory tests to verify the statements by the newspaper. Mvula said the ministry would also investigate reports of breach of contract. “The Ministry takes the allegations in a very serious manner and will investigate the caterers concerned to determine if they acted in bad faith by breaching the contract’s terms to fill their pockets at the expense of the children and national health,” said Permanent Secretary Vitalis Ankama on Friday. However, as of yesterday, Mvula was not sure whether the investigation had started or not. The Chief Executive Officer of Independence Caterers, Ed Davies said yesterday in a press statement that to standardise meat products, CAN assisted with setting up a meat plant in Otjiwarongo, which was in the process of developing the best and healthiest products. And once finalised, and approved by the relevant ministries, meat products would be produced and the quality would be strictly controlled by CAN. Davies said the company’s documents, which the author of the report obtained, were internal documents which were compiled in respect to alginate products used within the parameters of the relevant ministry’s guidelines. He said the report was done at the request of CAN to verify the samples, which were manufactured by the new plant completed in October 2005. “The laboratory tests requested is an ongoing process to ensure a product is acceptable to the ministry.” “In amplification, the report by Ida Erasmus relates to alginate products and not the final meat products, namely mince meat and boerewors. In fact, from the subsequent report … it is clear that after the alginate was mixed with total meat content as prescribed by the ministry’s guidelines (randomly chosen), the sodium alginate in the meat products were within the safe guidelines as prescribed by the relevant ministry,” added Davies. As for the meat plant, Davies said it was not in production yet as it was still in the product development stage, with samples still being sent for laboratory analysis and being scrutinised by CAN’s industrial and public health nutritionist.