From this term all state secondary schools in England must comply with new nutrient-based food standards introduced by the government. Jamie Oliver’s campaign prompted the school meals “revolution”, which has resulted in a ban on chocolate, crisps and fizzy drinks being served in secondary as well as primary schools, where the standards were introduced last year.
While the Mail has gone with the headline, “Jamie Oliver bans butter“, The Telegraph highlights fears that pupils are shunning healthy school meals in favour of junk food. Research by London Metropolitan University found that large numbers of younger children have stocked up on forbidden foods, rather than eat healthy meals since the new food standards were introduced in 2006.
As ever, the papers are playing on fears about food, which have now become a staple of the monthly news agenda. Is butter really the bogeyman? And are the food standards, which restrict the serving of burgers, buns and pies, really what young people need? A quick look at some of the nutritional information required of manufacturers and suppliers of school meals makes the mind boggle.
Focusing solely on dairy, the picture is typically confused. The definition of milk that can be provided in schools has changed from “skimmed or semi-skimmed milk” to “low-fat”. Basically what it boils down to is that milk served in schools must not have an overall fat component of over 1.8%. Manufacturers can mix semi-skimmed and whole milk so long as the fat content meets the regulations.
But, just how dangerous is whole milk? Only last month, research prompted the headline, “Dairy for children extends life”. According to the BBC, “Despite dairy containing artery furring fat and cholesterol, high consumption did not raise the heart disease risk.” In 2007 the Nutrition Journal warned that fat was necessary for children and they burn it at a faster rate than adults.
Just where the correct balance lies is anyone’s guess, but for now, the government seems to be damned if they do and damned if they don’t. All I know is that my brothers and I grew up on unpasteurised whole millk and have not had a problem.