SCHOOL canteens are classified as food establishments.
As such, they are required by the Food Safety Act to have a valid health and business licence.
It is an offence to operate a canteen or food establishment without a valid licence.
And canteen operators found in breach of the law are liable for a $10,000 fine or five years imprisonment.
Canteen managers and operators, whether school owned or outsourced, must obtain business permits from their relevant municipal councils or rural local authorities.
The permits must be visibly displayed in the canteen area.
Food hawkers or people who sell outside the school compound also need to have valid licences from the municipal council and local authorities.
The Health Ministry's National Food and Nutrition Centre revealed this in a statement while reiterating that compliance with the School Canteen Guidelines was paramount.
It said a survey in the Western Division in 2012 found that 80 per cent of schools surveyed did not comply with the School Canteen Guidelines.
"Principals and headteachers of all schools are to take note that since the canteens operate within their school premises which is under their jurisdiction, they are to enforce and monitor the compliance of their canteen operators and managers," the statement said.
"School canteens play an important role in advocating for good nutrition and health in children.
"Canteens should become enabling environments where children have the option of buying nutritious and healthy food at affordable prices."
The NFNC said running a school canteen could also be a safety issue as children would remain within the school compounds during recess and lunch breaks instead of wandering through the streets looking for something to eat.
"Most school canteens in Fiji are more focused on making profits than providing wholesome nutritious meals for children.
"Being money-driven, school canteens have lost sight of the objective of providing healthy food and drinks to children and are making money at the expense of the child's health.
"Local evidence suggests that school canteens can still make a moderate profit margin," said the NFNC.