Parents worry about premade food going onto school tables

Zhang Long
As a middle school in Jiangsu Province has started to serve students preprocessed food, their parents have voiced great concern about the food's safety and whether it is healthy.
Zhang Long

Despite the estimated market value of premade food in China being over 800 billion yuan (US$109.66 billion) in 2025, its recent entry to an elementary school in Ganzhou, Jiangsu Province, has raised great concern among parents.

Right before the beginning of the new semester in September, an elementary school in Ganzhou switched to premade food delivered by a “central kitchen” owned by a private company, despite the school having its own canteen and kitchen.

When the food was delivered to the children, some of the meals had gone cold, and some dishes had far fewer ingredients than advertised on the website of the central kitchen, according to parents in the school's WeChat group.

Parents worry about premade food going onto school tables

A picture taken by a parent with a caption saying the vegetables in the set meal delivered by the central kitchen didn't look fresh.

Parents worry about premade food going onto school tables

The set meal advertised on the website of the central kitchen.

It was estimated in 2022 there were about 66,700 premade food companies in China and the number is still growing to tap into the huge market, according to data released by China Chain Store & Franchise Association.

Also, parents from across the country expressed their concerns about preprocessed food on local governments’ online platforms. They mainly wish to have the schools be more transparent if preprepared food is to be used in the school’s canteen and to ensure the food is safe and healthy.

Parents worry about premade food going onto school tables

A screenshot of a video on social media has worried lots of parents. It shows a piece of plastic that was found in a meal last week at a school in Fu'an, Fujian Province.

Parents worry about premade food going onto school tables

A screenshot of a video on Douyin shows parents rushing to a school in Hunan Province to deliver homemade meals to their children at lunchtime on September 9, after the school switched to premade meals.

The Shanghai market watchdog has stated that they have included preprocessed food in their supervision. The companies that produce such food should strictly abide by China’s Food Safety Law.

The elementary and middle school students are firstly consumers who share the same rights to know and to choose, said Chang Ju, deputy secretary of Jiangsu Province Consumer Council.

The students’ parents, as their guardians, should know and learn about the food their children are having at school, and the latter should keep the parents in the know if premade food is served at the school and of who are the suppliers, Chang added.

Education bureaus in multiple cities have made statements to respond to the parents’ concerns. The bureau in Qingdao, Shandong Province, said kindergartens, elementary and middle schools across the city will not serve premade food.

The bureau in Xingyang, central China’s Henan Province, responded that the food served at local schools is prepared by a central kitchen on a daily basis and their plastic containers meet food safety standards. No precooked food is used.

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