The Government must make cookery lessons in schools compulsory if they are to have any chance of addressing childhood obesity, campaigners have warned.
But more than 50 bodies, including health organisations, teachers' unions and children's charities, have written to Education Secretary Alan Johnson insisting that voluntary lessons in cookery would not reach those pupils most likely to have poor eating habits.
The group - the Children's Food Campaign - said it is a scandal that so many pupils leave school unable to cook.
In the letter to Johnson, the campaigners said his predecessor Ruth Kelly had committed to making cookery a compulsory part of the curriculum in England's schools.
But the DfES said Kelly had not made such an undertaking but had welcomed recommendations by the school meals review panel that all children should be taught food preparation and practical cooking skills.
A spokesman told the BBC: "We are setting a priority on teaching children practical cooking skills.
"This is why we have asked the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority to consider how to put a greater emphasis on teaching pupils practical cooking skills in secondary schools through its broad-ranging curriculum review.
"This is also why we recently announced that every pupil should have a cooking entitlement, ensuring that schools must offer practical cooking lessons to every pupil that wishes to learn them."
By Daniel Thomas
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