A private school in Chengdu has become the scene of a massive food fight after parents discovered that food covered in mold was served to their children.
The scandal came to light early this week when stomach-turning footage featuring inedible food at Chengdu No. 7 Experimental High School surfaced and went viral on social media. Taken inside the school’s cafeteria by some parents, several videos and photos (in Chinese) show a range of spoiled food and ingredients that were prepared to be handed out to students, including moldy bread products, meat that’s bizarre colors, and spoiled seafood.
It’s reported that the parents’ visit to the cafeteria was prompted by mounting reports of students experiencing health issues such as breathing problems, which stirred speculations among worried parents that their children were served bad food at school. Sixth Tone notes that in a since-deleted video that made rounds on Weibo, a furious parent said her son had been suffering from some chest tightness for a period of time.
Affiliated with Chengdu No. 7 High School, one of the city’s best schools, the school in trouble is a private institution that currently enrolls nearly 6,000 primary and secondary students. In a statement (in Chinese) released by the institution on March 13, the school officials said that an internal investigation group and local police both had started probing the issue, and to avoid further harm, it had terminated contract with a food service company called Sichuan Deyu, which was responsible for its cafeteria food for years. “We apologize to students, parents, and staff for our lax supervision of the supplier,” the school said, adding that it will cooperate with local authorities in investigation and will inform parents of the investigation results as soon as possible. In addition, some school officials involved in the scandal have been temporarily removed from their posts.
The school, however, might not be the only institution affected by the moldy food. According to (in Chinese) China Securities Times, a Shenzhen-based media focusing on business news, Sichuan Deyu provides meals to around 30 entities across the country, including prestigious schools and companies. By estimate, more than 100,000 students have been potential victims of the company’s bad food.
Footage online show angry parents storming the school to stage a protest and finding themselves in clash with police officers, who were sent by local officials to disrupt the gathering. In a video, some parents can be seen being pepper-sprayed.
成都七中实验学校食堂给孩子喂发霉变质的食品 食堂承包方还负责20所学校，当愤怒的学生家长向校方问责时 遭遇到了警察叔叔温柔的问候 现场反馈回来的信息是已经用上催泪瓦斯了，我真的不明白了 这个国家为什么总在千篇一律重复这样一个模式 那就是永远在解决提出问题的人 而不是去解决问题。 pic.twitter.com/PmKYVOSET1
— 上帝 (@gblbz12345) March 13, 2019
A Chengdu local who witnessed the protest wrote (in Chinese) on social media that she was moved to tears by a mother, who used a microphone to talk to the crowd, “As parents, the first thing we can do is not letting our children go to this atrocious school anymore. We want it to be an empty school, a school run by parents. I’m not afraid of being jailed. I’m not afraid of breaking laws. My main duty as a mother is to ensure the health and safety of my son. I’m not afraid at all.”
— 冷山 (@goodrick8964) March 13, 2019
Chengdu high school parents protest school serving expired moldy food to kids as school meal. Police come to break up protest. New regulation in China will require school principal eat the same meal as students… pic.twitter.com/2qFa1X6H0R
— Carl Zha (@CarlZha) March 13, 2019
Student Moms’ protest continued at Chengdu High school against school serving moldy expired food to students. Issue involving kids can be highly emotional in China. Chinese parents go to great lengths for their kids pic.twitter.com/tHmYk6i6Wu
— Carl Zha (@CarlZha) March 13, 2019
Food safety in school cafeterias has been a major concern for Chinese parents for years, but a inherently corrupt system, where schools, food suppliers, and local governments all want to maximize their profits at the expense of students’ health, often place parents in a passive and disadvantaged position. Last year, an international school in Shanghai came under fire for using rotten materials and serving meals in small portions fit for a starving child.