University of Zimbabwe Students food Poisoned

university_of_zimbabweHundreds of University of Zimbabwe (UZ) students face food poisoning on campus, with already a number of students seeking medical help after eating poisoned food.

Food poisoning is the contamination of food by a pathogenic organism (bacteria, virus and fungi) or by chemicals. Students at UZ have complained of diarrhoea, vomiting and stomach aches after eating the poisoned food. Harare city council health officials are in the know of the food poisoning of students but have done nothing other than grandstanding and lip-services in rectifying the situation.

UZ Department of Accommodation and Catering Services (DACS) which over the years has been offering catering services withdrew the services when Vice Chancellor Professor Levi Nyagura issued a 30 minutes notice of eviction of more than 4500 students on July 9, 2007 from campus halls of residence. The dining halls located in the halls of residence remain closed with only an elitist senior common room offering subsidized meals and beer exclusively to staff members. The biggest campus dining hall which is part of the derelict Students Union (SU) building donated by her Majesty Queen Elizabeth of Britain was shut down by Nyagura in 2003 under the pretext of a need for renovations. The SU building also housed Students Representative Council (SRC) offices, indoor sports facilities, a gymnasium, rented shops and offices, an auditorium and a swimming pool. The revenue from the rentals used to fund SRC activities. There was not much with regards to SU building and its dining hall renovations except the generation of itemized bill of quantities and setting up of scaffolds by a private company. Another dining hall went up in flames after the university kept in it flammable unused linen, mattresses and other furniture. With most of the dining halls closed the students are left facing prospects of food poisoning from vendors on wheels lurking at campus.

For most of these unlicensed street vendors the business of business is business and have reckless disregard for hygiene and ethics. They are an eyesore at the upper east road ZIMSEC gate and at the Mt. Pleasant Drive Swinton gate. They are more obsessed with profits and are found cutting costs at the expense of safety and quality of the meals they sale. As a result the food gets poisoned due to poor preparation, storage and hygiene. Students allege that the vendors use sodium bicarbonate or soda for quick softening of beef during cooking. The chemical compound is said to cause stomach aches and running stomachs. Of concern also is that no one knows where and how the food is prepared. The vendors are also said to be promoting cattle rustling as they get their beef from unregistered dealers which has not been subjected to veterinary health check ups. The cooked food is also said not to be stored in a proper way. Cooked food left from previous day is also said to be kept to be warmed up before the next days sale.

Students say they are fully aware of the dangers to their health posed by buying food from the street vendors but they are forced to buy because it is cheaper than that sold at the campus supermarket allegedly owned by a senior staff. A plate of sadza with one piece chicken or two pieces beef cost US$1 from the street vendors. US$1 is the standard price of well-cooked food in the city centre.

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