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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 September 2005, 14:26 GMT 15:26 UK
Junk food to be banned in schools
Ruth Kelly and Tony Blair at a school breakfast club
Ruth Kelly and Tony Blair attended a school breakfast club in Brighton
Foods high in fat, salt or sugar are to be banned from meals and vending machines in English schools.

The ban, from next September, has been announced by Education Secretary Ruth Kelly at the Labour Party conference.

Vending machines in schools will not be allowed to sell chocolates, crisps or fizzy drinks, Ms Kelly announced.

The School Meals Review Panel next week will give details of the nutritional standards for ingredients to be allowed in school meals.

Junk food scandal

"I am absolutely clear that the scandal of junk food served every day in school canteens must end," said Ms Kelly.

Burgers and sausages from 'meat slurry' and 'mechanically recovered meat'
Sweets including chewing gum, liquorice, mints, fruit pastilles, toffees and marsh mallows
Chocolates and chocolate biscuits
Snacks such as crisps, tortilla chips, salted nuts, onion rings and rice crackers
"So today I can announce that we will ban poor quality processed bangers and burgers being served in schools from next September."

The review panel, an expert advisory group, was set up after a campaign to improve school meals by TV chef Jamie Oliver.

Bread products such as crumpets, English muffins, bagels and croissants
Cakes and biscuits made fresh by school caterers, digestive and ginger nut biscuits, cake bars, iced buns and doughnuts
Dried fruit, unsalted nuts, peanut and raisin mixes and unsalted popcorn
In response, the government promised extra funding to bring the primary school meal budget up to 50p per pupil per day, with 60p for secondaries - and created the panel to set minimum nutritional standards.

These will be introduced from this term - and will become mandatory from September 2006.

Monitoring the standards of food served to pupils will be part of the responsibility of Ofsted school inspectors.

plate of pasta

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Ms Kelly said it was "common sense" that some sorts of foods should be excluded from school menus.

"For example, meat products that are made from reconstituted meat slurry that bears no resemblance to the original product."

But plans to raise the standard of school food will not benefit pupils in local authorities where there is no school meals service.

Shadow education secretary David Cameron said: "We welcome this belated U-turn from Ruth Kelly. At the election ministers rejected Conservative proposals to extend a ban on junk food to vending machines, so this is a positive step."

Kitchen staff

But tighter standards were only part of the solution.

"They must be backed by sufficient resources for schools to provide the extra staff and kitchen facilities required - two crucial elements which are not being met in many schools."

Children cannot be expected to learn when their little bodies and minds are struggling because of poor nutrition
Janice Hopkins, Windsor, UK

Welsh Education Minister Jane Davidson said: "In Wales we have already set up a new group which will be looking at how to improve the quality and nutritional standards of school meals and to ensure we have a consistent and coherent approach to driving forward improvements in food and nutrition in our schools."

Nutritional standards were introduced a few years ago for meals in Scotland's schools, which typically spend more on ingredients than those in England.

The Northern Ireland School Caterers Association says schools there cook from fresh ingredients and do not rely as heavily on convenience foods as those in England.

'Deprived communities'

As well as presenting plans to improve school food, Ms Kelly also pointed to the priorities of her forthcoming White Paper - including the need for greater parental choice.

"Every parent should be able to choose the school that is right for their child.

"For too long, access to some schools has only been open to those who could afford to buy an expensive house next to a good school, while the rest were told to accept what they'd been given. There was nothing fair about that approach," she said.

She promised more good schools, improved transport, advice for parents and fair admissions.

And she emphasised the importance of city academies, "working at the heart of our most deprived communities".

See what schoolchildren think of the junk food ban

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