Food industry and consumer group at odds over junk food ban
government is not an effective solution to tackling childhood
obesity, the nation's food industry has said.
The Food and Drink Federation's (FDF) announcement comes in response to education secretary Ruth Kelly's speech at the annual Labour Party conference in which she revealed the government would be banning all foods with high fat, salt or sugar content from school meals and vending machines as from next September.
The FDF said it welcomed better school meal provision but added that "banning foods is neither a sensible nor an effective solution to tackling obesity. Balance is the key and bans will not help teach children how to build a balanced diet."
"Demonising individual products is not an effective way to make children understand the need for a balanced diet. Food manufacturers are already ahead of the game by providing a broader range of products for vending operations. That's what is most important," the FDF's Kate Snowden told BakeryAndSnacks.com.
On the other side of the spectrum, consumer watchdog Which? gave its full backing to the government's announcement, adding that it needed to take further measures to discourage the consumption of junk food by children.
"This is a very important first step in transforming food in schools," said the organisation's Sue Davis in a statement.
"The government must urgently tackle the advertising and promotion of junk food to children. There's little point in tackling it in schools if children continue to be bombarded with unhealthy messages when they switch on the TV," she added.
The UK's School Meals Review Panel will next week publish a report that will set out detailed proposals for tough new nutritional standards.
With the growing global obesity crisis, nutrition in schools has recently come into sharp focus.
Last month, France banned all vending machines in schools across the nation.
France's food standards body, AFSSA, supported the ban as part of wider measures. It said in a statement that it was in favour of banning vending machines to discourage snacking, yet more action was needed to improve the nutritional value of school meals.
In the US, the American Beverages Association, backed by PepsiCo and Coca-Cola, recently introduced a voluntary ban on all drinks except water and 100 per cent juice in elementary schools, and all full-calorie soft drinks in middle schools.
There have also been recent calls for bans on vending machines in schools in Ireland.
The World Health Organisation says that 22m children under 5-years-old are obese worldwide, while the number of obese children aged between six and 17 has more than doubled in the last 40 years.
The British Medical Association, representing about three quarters of UK doctors, said that if current trends continue, at least one fifth of boys and one third of girls in Britain will be obese by 2020.
In terms of market value, children's products contribute about €14-15bn to the overall €700bn food and drink market in Europe.