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Last Updated: Friday, 25 May 2007, 11:50 GMT 12:50 UK
Burgers revival on school menus
Children eating school dinner (library)
Very low grade meat remains banned from school canteens
England's school food watchdog has denied it is watering down its healthy food guidelines after many pupils opted out of school dinners.

Seven months after healthy food guidelines were introduced, the School Food Trust is revising the standards.

Canteens will now be allowed to offer manufactured meat products like pies, sausages and healthier burgers four times a fortnight instead of just once.

The trust said it was responding to calls for more clarity and flexibility.

New standards were brought into force in September 2006 after TV chef Jamie Oliver revealed the poor nutritional standards of meals on offer in school canteens.

FOODS STILL BANNED
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

But a number of reports and surveys, including one for the BBC, suggest that fewer pupils have been taking school meals.

A trust spokeswoman said the 2006 standards were always going to be refined and clarified, but denied the move was a result of pupils opting for the chip shop instead of the school canteen.

"We undertook consultations with cooks, schools and manufacturers and decided clarifications of the standards were needed.

"Having listened to people we understand how difficult it is to get from having chips and Turkey Twizzlers every day to not having burgers and chips at all.

"There's still a ban on lower quality economy burgers - schools have to serve a good quality one and it might be grilled."

Breadsticks

She added: "It's about being informed about making these choices and understanding that having burgers every day is not a choice that is normal.

"This is a response to help and encourage children make healthy choices, not because swarms of them are going to the chip shop."

The changes to the meat products restrictions mean canteens will be able, no more than once a fortnight, to offer pupils one item from each of the following four groups:

  • Burgers, hamburgers, chopped meat and corned meat
  • Sausages, sausage meat, link, chipolata and luncheon meat
  • Meat pies, meat puddings, Melton Mowbray pie, game pie, Scottish pie, pasty, pasties, bridie and sausage rolls
  • Any other shaped or coated meat product

Other changes mean kitchens can now serve breadsticks and crackers - as long as they are served with fruit, vegetables or dairy foods.

They were previously banned along with crisps, salted nuts and other flavoured snacks, but the trust thought they might encourage pupils to eat more fruit, vegetables and dairy food.

School kitchens are still being encouraged to serve more fruit, vegetables, fresh meat and fish, and deep-fried food should not be served more than twice a week.

A small snapshot survey of secondary schools for the trust suggested the take-up of the new healthier, school meals has remained roughly stable.

Some 30% of the 74 secondary schools that responded said they had seen a reduction in the numbers of pupils having school meals, while a further 30% said they had seen an increase.

The rest said things had not changed.

The survey suggests the results were better in primary schools. A poll of 206 for the trust found half had seen no change, a third had seen an increase and just under a fifth had seen a decrease.


SEE ALSO
'Fewer pupils' take school meals
06 Nov 06 |  Education
Chips down as school term starts
04 Sep 06 |  Education
Junk food banned in school meals
19 May 06 |  Education

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