MANY students prefer to eat in the school canteen because they get to eat what they like and also because their friends eat canteen food. While eating outside occasionally has become common where parents can easily afford it, but eating without taking care of hygiene is a matter of concern, Health news reported. DNA has been highlighting the unhygienic practices in canteens and roadside eateries and suggesting ways to improve the food quality. “Despite a big transformation in the education system, our school canteens are still the same having unhygienic infrastructure, dirty utensils, untidy towels and clothes of kitchen staff and poor way of cooking and storage,” a paediatrician Dr Sunita Shah. “The canteen increases the chances of 3-8 year kids of having diarrhoea, vomiting or stomach ache due to food poisoning”. Most children love chutney and sauce with their snacks, chowmein and sandwiches. “Liquid chutney and local-made sauce are not hygienic but children love them the most. “Since children are usually unaware about hygiene and healthy food practices, they tend to eat carelessly, sometimes at roadside stalls too,” Dr Shah said. Bhavna Agrawal, a teacher, said: “Every month, around four students in a class of 40 fall sick due to stomach upset.” According to a study of UK Institute of Food Research and University of Manchester, children are vulnerable to food-borne diseases. It means that few bacteria, especially food-borne or waterborne organisms, increase the severity of the disease. This increases their chance of contracting the disease. According to research, elderly people and pregnant women and patients who have suppressed immunity are vulnerable to food-borne infections. Dr RK Anand, a senior paediatrician, said: “Most students contract infections as they lack nutrition and thus low immunity. Well-to-do parents encourage their children to have junk food. The result: children are anaemic and susceptible to infections.” “Children aged 1 to 2 years have low immunity so infections are more pronounced. Immunity increases by age. Children have not been exposed to certain pathogens, so have not developed immunity against them,” said a paediatrician.