Smoothies banned as part of school meal shake-up

Fruit juice is also banned and limits set on the amount of red meat that can be consumed

Emma Seith

Smoothies banned as part of school meal shake up

Scotland will become the first part of the UK to set maximum limits for consumption of cancer-causing processed red meat over the course of the school week.

A Tes Scotland investigation last year revealed schools were being rebuked by inspectors for serving deep-fried food too regularly, using high volumes of processed meat and serving baked goods for breakfast.

An expert group, which carried out a review of school food and drink for the Scottish government, also found that muffins, cakes, traybakes and sausage rolls were being served by schools at breaktimes and were "undermining" the strict nutritional standards that applied to Scottish school lunches.

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Now, through updated guidance published today, the Scottish government hopes to make school food healthier.

The new rules – which will come into force in autumn next year to give councils time to plan – require increases in the amount of fruit and vegetables served and significant reduction in the amount of sugar available throughout the school day, to include the banning of smoothies and fruit juices.

Education secretary John Swinney said these would no longer be served in school because one small carton could contain “more than the entire recommended sugar intake for a primary pupil’s lunch”. 

He added: “Our school food and drink regulations are now over a decade old. With more than 360,000 meals served a day, schools must follow the latest scientific and dietary advice and encourage young people to choose healthy habits for life.

“Every school lunch will now contain more fruit and vegetables, and where food is served elsewhere in school full portions of fruit and vegetables must be on offer.

“We have set maximum limits for consumption of red processed meat which is linked to an increased risk of cancer. This will also reduce exposure to harmful nitrites.”

A 2015 World Health Organisation (WHO) report placed processed meat in the same carcinogenic category as asbestos and tobacco.

Experts found that a 50g portion eaten daily – the equivalent of two rashers of bacon, or a single sausage or hot dog – would increase the risk of bowel cancer by 18 per cent.

The health risk occurs when nitrites – preservatives that help turn meat pink – are heated and produce cancer-causing nitrosamines.

Heather Peace, head of public health nutrition at Food Standards Scotland, said that it welcomed the new report.

Food Standards Scotland was part of the working group that reviewed existing school food and drink regulations, and she said the group had "put the health and wellbeing of children and young people at the heart of its considerations".

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Emma Seith

Emma Seith

Emma Seith is a reporter for Tes Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Emma_Seith

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