Consultation launched to ban junk food in schools

By Peter Stiff

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition

The UK government has launched a consultation on standards for food
sold in schools following recommendations from the School Food
Trust calling for a ban on confectionery and snacks.

The School Food Trust has drawn up draft standards to prevent childhood obesity spiraling out of control and to improve children's health. The consultation will seek the opinion of head teacher and school workforce associations, dieticians, health charities and food and drink organisations on the proposed ban for confectionery and fizzy drinks being sold in schools. "The independent School Food Trust has proposed a robust standard for food which can be sold in schools through vending machines, tuck shops and at break times," said Schools Minister Jacqui Smith. "It is important that we now seek the views of a wide range of stakeholders on these to ensure that such standards are effective, practical, and in the best interests of children's health." The proposed standards have been met with mixed reaction. The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) in the UK, which has welcomed better school meal provisions doesn't believe the recommend standards will help solve the obesity problem. "Banning foods is neither an effective or practical solution to tackling obesity. Balance is the key and bans will not help teach children how to build a balanced diet," said Martin Paterson, Deputy Director General of the FDF. However the Trust says healthier alternatives are available to replace energy dense foods and drinks that have no nutritional benefits. Suzi Leather, chair of the School Food Trust, also said that obesity targets "cannot succeed if pupils are surrounded with chocolate, crisps and drinks that fill them up with sugar and fat during the school day." The School Food Trust states that one in eight children in the UK are now obese and that one in four of the generation now entering school will be obese by 2020 unless preventative action is taken. After the consultation the government will publish the final version of the non-lunch standards alongside the agreed standards for school lunches in May. The government previously set standards for school lunches, which will be introduced from September, with funding of £220m. The Trust's advice is that new standards should be consistently applied to every other food outlet in schools including breakfast, after school meals, mid-morning breaks, vending machines and tuck shops. It recommends the following standards: No confectionery should be sold in schools. No bagged savoury snacks other than nuts and seeds (without added salt or sugar) should be sold in schools. A variety of fruit and vegetables should be available in all school food outlets, which could include fresh, dried, frozen, canned and juiced varieties. Children and young people must have easy access at all times to free, fresh, preferably chilled, water in schools so that children do not have to visit the toilet block to get water. The only other drinks available should be bottled water (still or sparkling), skimmed or semi-skimmed milk, pure fruit juices, yoghurt and milk drinks (with less than 5% added sugar) or drinks made from a combination of these such as smoothies, tea or coffee. Every school should have an integrated whole school food and nutrition policy, preferably reflected in its single School Plan. The standards apply only to food provided in schools on a regular basis and do no extend to voluntary activities such as fundraising events. The Trust intends to give guidance on lunchboxes later in the year.

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