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‘Junk food’ to be banned in schools

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.

This post was filed under: News and Comment, Politics.

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Comments and responses

Comment from Energy

    17.26, 17/05/2007

most soft drinks have high levels of benzine via sodium bezoit and are harmful to everyone not just kids.

Comment from sjhoward (author of the post)

    17.59, 17/05/2007

I’m not necessarily disputing what you say, but I’ve never seen any research anywhere that suggests that the tiny amounts of benzene in soft drinks have harmful effects on health – so I’d be interested to see it, if you have it available.

Comment from KD

    00.30, 05/07/2007

Your comment about tuck shops being allowed to sell unhealthy snacks is incorrect, I’m afraid. We run a once-a-week tuck shop in school and each child is allowed a maximum of 20p, which I think is reasonable and not at all detrimental to the children’s health. As of September this year we are only allowed to sell healthy snacks – raisins, nuts (dangerous – allergies), smoothies, unsalted popcorn (for goodness sake!) and such like. The problem is finding products within our price range that the children will enjoy. The food police are not considering individual cases like ours, nor are we able to compromise with a 10p allowance. At least the corner shop will be doing a roaring trade on Friday mornings replacing our little tuck shop…

Comment from sjhoward (author of the post)

    02.34, 05/07/2007

Well not so much wrong as outdated, I guess… If you’ve only had this problem now, then presumably you’ve been able to sell sugary snacks for the last two academic years, highlighting the fallacy of the original plan.

For what it’s worth, I think you’re right, this is a pretty stupid plan. We should teach kids responsibility for their diet, not ban things altogether. Smoking has always been banned in school – but that doesn’t stop adults smoking.

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