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Preserving wildlife? ‘Frog kimchi’ puts school lunches under scrutiny

Screenshot of frog in radish kimchi served at a high school in Seoul (Online community website)
Screenshot of frog in radish kimchi served at a high school in Seoul (Online community website)


While most people would rather not have a metaphorical frog in their throat, the prospect was quite literal for students at two Seoul schools, who found uninvited amphibians in their lunch trays.

Now, the suppliers of the “frog kimchi” served in the school lunches face the possibility of having their food safety certifications revoked.

Both frogs were found in radish kimchi, a common side dish, but at different schools dealing with different suppliers. A dead frog was found in a high school lunch in western Seoul on May 30. Two weeks later, another dead frog was found at a high school in central Seoul on June 16.

After the news surfaced, the Seoul Metropolitan Education Office, decided to exclude radish kimchi from school lunches until summer vacation which will start in mid-July.

While the Ministry of Education ordered an investigation on some 400 radish kimchi suppliers in Korea approved by the Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corporation with its HACCP certification which guarantees food safety, the Seoul education office also kicked off a separate investigation into the matter.

The Seoul School Health Promotion Center under the education office announced Wednesday, the HACCP certification for the two suppliers have been deemed “inappropriate” through an inspection.

The two suppliers have received a correction order, and the certification will be canceled if they fail to pass the second evaluation.

While one supplier has admitted its fault and will be pulled out from the eaT system ran by the Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corporation for a month -- meaning it will not be able to supply its food to any schools here -- another supplier is yet to admit responsibility. The authorities are continuing the investigation.

Though there are schools that have canceled their contracts with the two suppliers, others are yet to make a decision.

“The supplier said it cannot accept responsibility as the dead frog could have come from other ingredients,” an official from the health center said at a press briefing held Wednesday, explaining the frog was found in a noodle dish served with radish kimchi. “Schools are being careful as it is difficult to cancel the contract unilaterally.”

Amid concern over school lunches, the Seoul School Health Promotion Center will also work on ensuring the safety of school cafeterias. It is reviewing the possibility of separating the kitchen for the high school in western Seoul where a dead frog was found. The school kitchen serves meal for three more adjacent schools, as they are run by the same private organization.

“Radish kimchi has a strong color, making it difficult to identify foreign bodies. The cleansing can be imperfect as radish leaves are tangled with each other,” Lim Young-sik, head of the Seoul School Health Promotion Center said. “Also, it is summer, when tree frogs are active. They stick on to what they can with their suckers.”

By Im Eun-byel (silverstar@heraldcorp.com)
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