Crackdown on fatty school meals

Witney Gazette: A school dinner being served. A school dinner being served.

A crackdown on fatty and sweet foods is being launched as part of new standards on school meals unveiled by the Government today.

Milk must also be available to primary and secondary pupils during the school day under the new rules which come into force in January.

Pupils will only be offered two portions of deep-fried, battered and bread-crumb coated foods each week under the rules outlined by Education Secretary Michael Gove.

Pastry-based dishes will be subject to the same restrictions, schools will be completely banned from offering chocolate and confectionery in canteens and tuck shops, and salt will not be available for pupils to add to food after it is cooked.

The revised school food standards will be mandatory in all maintained schools, new academies and free schools when they come into force in January.

Other requirements are:

:: One or more portions of vegetables or salad to be served as an accompaniment every day.

:: At least three different fruits, and three different vegetables each week.

:: Desserts, cakes and biscuits only allowed at lunchtime and must not contain confectionery.

:: Condiments must be limited to portions of no more than 10g or one teaspoonful.

:: Limiting fruit juice portions to 150ml and emphasising water as a drink.

:: Restricting the amount of added sugars or honey in other drinks to 5%.

:: A portion of meat, fish, eggs or beans to be offered every day.

:: No snacks except nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruit with no added salt, sugar or fat.

Mr Gove said: "These new food standards will ensure all children are able to eat healthy, nutritious meals at school.

"We now have a clear and concise set of food standards which are easier for cooks to follow and less expensive to enforce. Crucially we have achieved this without any compromise on quality or nutrition.

"There has been a great deal of progress in providing healthy school meals in recent years and these new standards will help deliver further improvements."

Under the new rules milk must be made available at least once during the school day, replacing the old guidelines which specified only that calcium-rich foods like milk, cheese, yoghurt, fromage or custard had to be offered.

A Department for Education spokesman added: "Our revised school food standards say for the first time that lower fat milk must be available for pupils - both primary and secondary - during the school day.

"We want all pupils to eat healthily and giving every child access to milk at school will be a key part of that ."

Schools will be able to decide when during the day they want to offer milk and there is no suggestion of a return to free milk for all primary school children.

Former prime minister Margaret Thatcher earned the nickname "milk snatcher'' when, in 1971, the then education secretary scrapped free school milk for the over-sevens .

The Department for Education said the new standards proved "extremely popular" in trials with school cooks, with nine in 10 saying they were easier to implement than the previous guidelines.

Henry Dimbleby, co-founder of the LEON restaurant chain, chaired an expert panel of cooks, teachers, caterers and dieticians who oversaw the drafting of the proposals.

Mr Dimbleby, who also co-wrote the School Food Plan, which the new guidelines are based on, said: "The previous standards did a lot of good in removing the worst foods from children's diets.

"But when we were writing the School Food Plan we met lots of wonderful cooks who felt restricted by them.

"These standards will preserve the nutritional gains that have already been made in school food while allowing greater flexibility."

Susan Jebb, professor of diet and population health at the University of Oxford and lead nutritionist on the new measures, said: "We know that children are continuing to eat too much saturated fat, sugar and salt. It is vital that the food children are offered in schools is nutritious and helps them to learn about the basics of a healthy diet.

"The pilots we ran were very encouraging and clearly enabled cooks to develop nutritionally balanced menus.

"We saw a real boost in the variety of vegetables offered, helping to increase intakes of fibre and essential nutrients.

"The new standards and supporting guidance include clear information on appropriate portion sizes to help achieve similar results and promote good practice across all schools."

Stephanie Wood from the Save our School Food Standards campaign welcomed the "clear and concise" standards, adding: "We believe that mandatory standards are vital to ensure that school meals provide children with energy and nutrition."

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said the revised standards will allow schools to be "more creative" in their menus.

"If you speak to heads, teachers and cooks about the school meals they provide, they want to be given a little bit more freedom to make their own choices," he said.

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