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Council beefs up its menu

East Sussex has put beef back on the menu at secondary schools, almost certainly making it the first authority to do so since the start of the current BSE crisis.

There is little sign of other education authorities preparing to alter their stance until uncertainty over the risk to human health is resolved.

Most councils have banned beef, and have no plans to review their policy. A few have left the decision to individual schools, while others offer beef in secondary schools where there is a choice of meals.

East Sussex, which adopted a ban in January, has now joined this last group.

Richard Austin, chair of its education resources and planning sub-committee, said: "There was concern that some primary school children may be too young to choose whether to eat beef or not. In secondary schools pupils are old enough to make their own decisions."

Dorset, which offers beef in secondary schools, has for the last four years stipulated that the meat must come from BSE-free herds. Only in rural primaries, where packed lunches are served, is beef banned.

Across the spectrum, councils and caterers are impatient for the Government to issue some definitive advice on the issue.

Pat Fellows, chairman of the Local Authority Caterers' Association, said: "Parents are concerned, and at the end of the day, these children are our customers. We feel there need to be clearer messages.

"We recommend that beef should only be offered where there is a choice. "

Barbara Copland, marketing director of CCG Services Ltd, one of the largest private contractors, was unaware of any councils putting beef back on the menu.

But she added: "There is a school of thought that if you are educating children to be able to make sensible decisions by banning beef you are withdrawing their ability to decide what to eat."

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