17 Jun 2014

Goodbye, Mr Chips? Gove rations fatty food in schools

The government is cracking down on fatty and sweet foods in schools, allowing pupils just two portions each week, while milk will once again be introduced during the school day.

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

Pastry-based dishes will be subject to the same restrictions and chocolate and confectionery will be completely banned from school canteens – and even tuck shops.

And while Margaret Thatcher was notorious as the “milk snatcher” for taking away school milk, this coalition government is reversing her decision: Mr Gove’s new rules include bringing back milk for primary and secondary pupils during the school day.

The new rules come into force in January and will be mandatory in all maintained schools, as well as new academies and free schools. But schools which became academies between 2010 and 2014 will not be obliged to stick to the new rules, because of legalities – something that NUT leader Christine Blower said was a “missed opportunity”.

Celebrity Chef Jamie Oliver has previously criticised Michael Gove for not imposing existing rules about school meals on academies – which now make up around half of UK secondary schools – and free schools.

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.