Snacks sold by schools ‘undermine healthy lunches'

Scotland has strict standards for school dinners but pupils are still being offered muffins and bacon rolls at break

Emma Seith

Breaktime treats like muffins are eroding the impact of healthy lunches, say experts

Muffins, cakes, traybakes and sausage rolls served at break times are "undermining" the strict nutritional standards applied to Scottish school lunches, experts have found.

Scotland has some of the strictest nutritional standards in the world when it comes to school meals.

But now an expert group, which has carried out a review of school food and drink for the Scottish government, wants new tougher standards to be introduced that encompass the snacks on sale at break times.

The expert group said that, while chocolate and sweets were banned in school following the nutritional guidelines introduced in 2008, traybakes, muffins, cakes and biscuits high in fat and sugar were still being sold in tuck shops.

They called for these products to be subject to stricter nutritional guidelines.

At secondary schools, the experts found, sausage and bacon rolls were often available on a daily basis – particularly during the mid-morning break.

Now the experts say new standards should be introduced covering pupils' intake of red processed meat throughout the course of the school day. They point out that these products are often high in fat and salt and have been linked to an increased risk of cancer.

'Ban fruit juice at school'

The report, which was published yesterday, said: “It is of concern that current food provision outside lunch in schools may lead to the establishment of poor dietary habits that could track into adulthood – e.g., through daily purchase of rolls with red processed meat fillings and large portions of sweetened baked products.

"This type of provision undermines the strict standards set for lunches.”

The experts also want schools to stop serving fruit juice and smoothies “due to their high free sugar content” and for caterers to serve two portions of vegetables and one portion of fruit with every lunch.

Now the Scottish government is consulting on their recommendations.

Last month, a Tes Scotland investigation uncovered that school food failed to meet the existing standards in half of the health and nutrition inspections carried out by Education Scotland.

Since 2012, in the 340 inspections that also examined food quality, from snacks in tuck shops to school lunches, nutritional standards were not met in 172 cases.

The education secretary, John Swinney, said nutritional standards were already high but the government wanted to go further “to promote healthy, high-quality food and drink and help tackle childhood obesity”.

He added: “The proposals we are putting forward are based on the latest scientific and expert advice, as well as the views of local authorities, schools and catering staff. I urge everyone with an interest in school food to have their say.”

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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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