Tough new standards for school meals

10 February 2005 by
Tough new standards for school meals

Tough new standards for school meals will be introduced next year, the Government said today.

Education secretary Ruth Kelly said new minimum health specifications for processed foods such as beefburgers, sausages and cakes will be introduced in schools from September to help schools reduce fat, salt and sugar contents.

Then from September next year, tougher minimum standards for school meals will come into force, requiring caterers to "strongly consider" the use of nutrient-based standards, she added.

School dinners: becoming more nutritious
This year, by April, a new vocational qualification for school caterers will be put in place to help raise quality and standards, said Kelly. This would lead to more high-status school cooks "who are as integral to the whole-school team as teachers and classroom assistants", she claimed. By July there would be more help for schools and local education authorities in drawing up catering contracts, so they can better source healthy school meals' services as well as healthy food in vending machines, tuck shops, or breakfast clubs. And from September, how healthy a school's menu is will become part of the Ofsted school inspection process. Kelly said: "We have already set down minimum standards for school dinners, but they are just that - a minimum. We are now working to raise the bar and support schools and parents to improve school meals ahead of the introduction of comprehensive, tougher standards next year." Children's charity and school meals campaigner the Child Poverty Action Group said it hoped the initiative would be the start of a wider process to ensure school meals were of the highest quality. "School meals play an important role in promoting healthy eating and tackling disadvantage. Reducing the fat, salt and sugar in the food that school children eat will make the meals tastier, more nutritious and will encourage a higher take up," said chief executive Kate Green. In a separate development, a bill tackling how children's food and drink products are marketed, promoted and sold is currently making its way through Parliament. The Children's Food Bill will also look at ways to improve education on nutrition and health among children and parents and how information on food and drink is disseminated, following concerns about the amount of unhealthy food advertised during children's TV programmes. by Nic Paton Buy this week's *Caterer* magazine for more industry news and analysis
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