by Marion Nestle
Aug 16 2010

Great Britain backs down on healthy school food

The new conservative government in Great Britain is doing all it can to promote unhealthy eating.

First, it backed down on traffic-light food labels.

Then, it took the food label regulatory functions away from its too-interventionist Food Standards Agency.

Now, it is reneging on regulations requiring schools to serve healthier foods:

Education Minister Nick Gibb has told MPs all new academies will not have to stick to tough rules limiting the fat, salt and sugar content in dinners…when asked if academies would have to comply with nutritional standards for school meals…Some existing academies are required to comply with these standards through their funding agreements.  However, new academies will not be required to comply with nutritional standards for school meals. They will be free to promote healthy eating and good nutrition as they see fit.

Oh.  Voluntary guidelines.  We know all about those.

As a disappointed Jamie Oliver puts it, as he watches his work undone: “This will take us back to the days of junk food vending machines in schools, and Turkey Twizzlers on the menu.”

  • Sheila

    Sadly, the consequences of this action will be most apparent years down the road, when the current lawmakers are no longer in public sight, and can no longer be held accountable for the consequences.
    I wish the parents of the students would revolt and demand the healthier standards be held.

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  • Sad, so sad, it really is.

    C4 has kids recipes from my deck for free download, to encourage kids to cook over the summer hols. We need to use the media: cooking with real, raw ingredients as a route to a healthy diet.
    Click on Get the kids cooking this holiday

  • Pete

    I don’t know which is more saddening this news or the fact that English kids have to eat dinner in school! — “all new academies will not have to stick to tough rules limiting the fat, salt and sugar content in dinners…”

    sorry, needed some levity.

  • Why the sudden change back? Did I miss the reason?

  • Pete

    The reason can be found in the name of this blog.

  • A.

    I don’t really see the problem with these legislations not passing, these laws seem meaningless to me anyway. I’d rather kids eat foods that don’t require labels. Instead of setting laws on fat/salt/sugar labels and focusing on calories, we should focus on real food. If everything served is natural and unprocessed we don’t need to worry about kids’ health and waistlines so much. People have eaten high-fat (and high-carb) diets for millenia without obesity. It’s the junk that’s the problem, and the fact that kids snack and scarf down their food in a few minutes.

  • Anthro


    I see your point but would like to point out that although people have eaten “high-fat (and high carb) diets for millenia (sic) without obesity”, that is not quite accurate. People who overeat get fat (Henry VIII, Hawaiian royalty and such) throughout history. Calories do matter. You have to have enough of them to survive, but it’s easy to step over the limit needed for survival, especially in our “food everywhere” society, and start taking in too many. If you eat too much whole wheat bread, or cheese, or tofu, you will gain weight. Junk food simply exacerbates the problem by playing to peoples weaknesses and providing lots of calories in what has come to be seen as a “normal” serving size.

  • Cathy Richards

    This is heartbreaking, after all the work everyone has done to help make it mandatory for schools to stop contributing to the burden of chronic disease.

    It adds a great responsibility to multiple local stakeholders, that school councils/districts may or may not take on, and may or may not take on well. Child in school A gets lousy food, child in school B gets so so food, child in school C gets great food, funding from government for all schools is the same — which service will last through multiple changes in managers with varied priorities and skills?

  • Bobby

    Ahhh, the best government money can buy. Always worth a look at who’s doing the paying, in this case, the people-killers inhabiting the management ranks of the food “industry.”