Junk Foods to
be Banned in British Schools
By Philippe Naughton
Times of London
September 28, 2005
School canteens will no longer be allowed to
serve cheap bangers or burgers, and vending
machines will have to sell healthier options
instead of crisps, chocolate and fizzy drinks.
Ruth Kelly, the Education Secretary, told the
Labour Party conference today that she was
determined to end the "scandal of junk food" in
British schools – which became a subject for
national debate earlier this year after a Jamie
Oliver documentary series.
She told delegates: "Next week, I will
publish the report of the School Meals Review
Panel, which will set out detailed proposals for
tough new nutritional standards.
"But I am absolutely clear that the scandal
of junk food served every day in school canteens
must end. So today I can announce that I will
ban low-quality reprocessed bangers and burgers
high in fat, salt and sugar being being served
in schools, from next September.
"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,
chocolate and sugary fizzy drinks."
The announcement is the first specific policy
initiative since Mr Oliver’s programme, Jamie’s
School Dinners, awoke parents and voters to the
scandal of junk food in schools, where the
budget per meal can be as low as 37p. The
Government has already pledged extra funding for
the costs of meals. But coming just weeks into
the new school term, it means that canteens will
be free to dish out the junk for the rest of the
The announcement was met with scepticism and
even hostility by some parents’ and headteachers’
groups. Margaret Morrissey, spokeswoman for the
National Confederation of Parent Teacher
Associations, said: "Whilst we support the
initiative to raise nutritional standards for
school meals, there is a fine line between
improvement and closing down the school meal
"We have heard reports of canteens closing
through lack of take-up since the Jamie Oliver
programme. For many, admittedly not all,
children on free school meals, school dinner is
the only cooked meal they have and whilst it
needs to be good it also needs to be available.
"What we would like to hear is that every
school in the country has to provide a hot meal
John Dunford, general secretary of the
Secondary Heads Association, said: "A ban on
unhealthy food in schools carries with it very
practical problems of implementation.
"Pupils will continue to eat unhealthy packed
lunches and visit the local chip shop. Schools,
especially those in private finance initiatives,
may be locked into long term contracts with
caterers and vending suppliers.
"They may not actually have control over what
goes in vending machines. Children eat over a
thousand meals a year but less than 200 of these
are in school."
He added: "I am disappointed that the
Secretary of State found it necessary to say
again that Ofsted will be inspecting the quality
of school meals.
"This is just silly. Food inspectors are not
asked to inspect the quality of education and
education inspectors should not be asked to
inspect the quality of food."
Mick Brookes, general secretary of the
National Association of Head Teachers, said many
children and parents would simply bring in
packed lunches full of junk food.
"School leaders are heartily sick of having
initiative after initiative foisted upon them
and then having to allocate the funding and
resources from the bottom of a barrel that has,
in many cases, already been scraped clean," he
But the Professional Association of Teachers
welcomed the reforms. Its general secretary,
Jean Gemmell, said: "A good diet and good health
go hand in hand. We welcome this as an important
step to promote healthy eating."
And David Cameron, the Shadow Education
Secretary, said he welcomed "this belated u-turn
from Ruth Kelly". He said: "At the election
ministers rejected Conservative proposals to
extend a ban on junk food to vending machines,
so this is a positive step. However, tighter
standards are only part of the solution.
"They must be backed by sufficient resources
for schools to provide the extra staff and
kitchen facilities required.
"There are also significant challenges posed
by rising numbers of pupils switching to packed
lunches or absenting themselves at lunchtimes to
buy junk food, and the Government must address
Banned foods are likely to include:
Sweets such as chewing gum, liquorice, mints,
fruit pastilles, toffees and marsh mallows
All chocolate products including milk, dark,
white and plain chocolate, chocolate eggs,
chocolate drops and chocolate biscuits
Snacks such as crisps, tortilla chips, salted
nuts, onion rings and rice crackers
Processed meat products high in fat and salt
Permitted foods may include:
Bread products such as crumpets, English
muffins, bagels and croissants;
Cakes and biscuits made fresh by school caterers
(who can control fat, sugar and salt levels),
digestive and ginger nut biscuits, cake bars,
iced buns and doughnuts
Fruit yoghurts, Greek yoghurt and other
varieties of yoghurt will also be allowed
Dried fruit, unsalted nuts, peanut and raisin
mixes and unsalted popcorn.