Food caution is product of a tragedy

21st December 2007 at 00:00
Parents must be secretly jumping for joy at this year's party food ban (page 1). It's not because we want our little darlings to be disappointed at their annual Christmas shindig. Rather, it's to do with the embarrassment most feel when they turn up with a box of supermarket finest only to discover other parents have been up all night slaving over a hot stove.

But this health and safety ban does have a serious side as it is the product of a tragedy that must never be repeated. It is not yet another barmy over-the-top reaction to wrap our children in cotton-wool. The hard line taken by Merthyr Tydfil county borough council in banning all food - even shop bought - is a reasonable response to the worst-ever E.Coli outbreak in Wales in 2005.

It was an epidemic caused by contaminated food - in this case meat - allowed into our schools. It led to the tragic death of little Mason Jones and other children being seriously ill for weeks.

As we all become more careful about what we eat, whether it be because of a peanut allergy or our own health, it makes sense that schools are taking a lead in eliminating not only obesity-causing foods but those that pose a serious health risk to our young. However, what was heartening about our snap-shot survey of primary schools is that other seasonal traditions are as strong as ever. The sending of Christmas cards, the much-loved Nativity play and the Christmas dinner are still dear to many of Wales's teachers.

That does not mean the ever-growing population of ethnic-minority children in our schools are ignored. Every child, no matter where they come from or what religion they follow, should be allowed to celebrate their festivals, culture and beliefs in our schools. That is all part of being a fair, democratic and tolerant society.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all TES Cymru readers.

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