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Ruth Kelly, the government minister determined to introduce something eponymous during her tenure, is apparently to ban junk food in schools. My question is: How?
Many schools are locked into implausibly long contracts with suppliers, from both catering and vending machine companies. These contracts include a great financial disincentive to early ending. So where’s the money coming from to end these contracts by September 2006? Or does the government plan to do something quite sneaky, like change the law to make it illegal to supply such items in schools, and hence make any company doing so a law-breaker? It’s an interesting idea, but it’s hardly true to Labour values.
Or is Kelly just going to leave the ending of the contracts as each individual school’s problem, possibly meaning that many will get into financial difficulty, and, by definition, all will have less to spend on, erm, education?
Or, in typical New Labour style, is this a well spun fudge? Kelly actually said…
So today I can announce that we will ban poor quality processed bangers and burgers being served in schools from next September.
It would therefore appear that good quality processed bangers and burgers will be fine. And which company is really ever going to admit to selling ‘poor’ quality ones? And how is this ‘quality’ going to be regulated and judged?
On the subject of vending machines, the words falling out of Kelly’s mouth were actually…
And because children need healthy options throughout the school day I can also announce that from next September no school will be able to have vending machines selling crisps, chocolates, or sugary fizzy drinks.
It’s noticeable, particularly on the fizzy drinks front, that most ranges have now switched over to production with ‘no added sugar’ – so presumably they don’t count as ‘sugary fizzy drinks’. And so on that front, there needs to be no change. As for crisps and chocolates, that seems fair enough, but it clearly doesn’t rule out all sweets, biscuits, and similarly unhealthy snacks. And, of course, school ‘tuck shops’ will still be able to sell all of these things – because they are not vending machines.
Perhaps I’m just being overly cynical, but it appears to me that Kelly has announced a headline-grabbing policy of precious little substance. How very New Labour.