Parents in wrangle over school meals

11 August 2005
Parents in wrangle over school meals

Parents in the London borough of Merton are locked in a dispute with the council over food descriptions planned for the next school year's menus, due to start next month.

The parents' group claims terms such as "home-made" and "lamb roast" should not be used on menus in primary school meals, which are provided by caterer Initial.

Jackie Schneider, leader of the group, said they wanted more transparency. "We need to be absolutely clear about what the children are eating," she added.

But Schneider said the council has been reluctant to take their concerns on board. She believes many parents will understand "lamb roast" to mean roast lamb, despite the fact that the meat is processed.

"The law is very clear that menus must state if the meat is reformed. The ultimate solution is to improve the quality of the meat," said Schneider.

Food Standards Agency (FSA) guidelines state that "the term ‘home-made' should be restricted to the preparation of the recipe on the premises, from primary ingredients."

The group claims that the home-made items on the proposed menu do not meet these criteria.

Merton contracts manager Stephen Black denied any dispute and said discussions regarding the menus were ongoing. "We are seeking advice from the FSA and Merton trading standards are involved," he said.

An Initial spokesman said it was unfortunate that these points should be aired in the media, as they were still being discussed. "It's a great pity that the significant progress made by the group members is not attracting the same interest," he added.

  • The Soil Association will organise a conference at the Guardian‘s offices in Farringdon, London, on 23 September to bring parents' groups together to discuss school meals. Speakers will include Nottingham school cook Jeanette Orrey and a Department for Education and Skills minister.
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