New school food regulations aim to reduce children's consumption of red meat

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Scotland is to become the first country in the UK to set maximum limits for consumption of red processed meat in schools.

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The new school food and drink regulations in Scotland will set a maximum amount of red and processed meat that can be served during the school week

The new school food and drink regulations, coming into effect by autumn 2020, aim to make food healthier by reducing the amount of red meat and sugar on the menu and increasing the types of fruit and vegetables on offer to pupils.

It will be the first time the food and drink regulations for primary and secondary schools in Scotland have been updated since 2008/2009.

The move by the Scottish government forms part of its efforts to halve childhood obesity by 2030 and strengthen children and young people’s healthy eating habits.

Changes to the regulations include:

  • the introduction of a maximum amount of red and processed meat provision, such as bacon, ham and pepperoni in school lunches to help reduce exposure to nitrates.
  • the removal of fruit juice and smoothies from menus to reduce children’s sugar intake.

In the current regulations, these drinks are permitted.

The move follows consultation and advice from a working group comprising health, nutrition and education experts.

It comes after new research, out today, shows eating red and processed meat increases your risk of early death.

The study, published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) encourages people to swap red and processed meat for fish, eggs and lean chicken.

Last month, the Soil Association called for schools to have one meat-free day a week to make meals more environmentally-friendly and reflect changing dietary advice.

The association urged the Department for Education to replace a non-mandatory recommendation for a weekly meat-free day with a statutory once a week menu offering only plant-based proteins and foods.

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Scotland’s deputy first minister John Swinney said, ‘Our school food and drink regulations are now over a decade old. With more than 360,000 meals served a day, schools must follow the latest scientific and dietary advice and encourage young people to choose healthy habits for life.

‘Every school lunch will now contain more fruit and vegetables, and where food is served elsewhere in school full portions of fruit and vegetables must be on offer.

‘We have set maximum limits for consumption of red processed meat which is linked to an increased risk of cancer. This will also reduce exposure to harmful nitrites.

‘And we know that one small carton of fruit juice or smoothie contains more than the entire recommended sugar intake for a primary pupil’s lunch, so these drinks will no longer be served in schools.

‘These changes will improve our school food, help tackle childhood obesity and give our children the best start in life.’

Professor Steve Turner, officer for Scotland at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) said it was a 'positive move'.

'More than 28 per cent of children in Scotland are overweight or obese, and with research telling us that the food and drink they see strongly influences the food choices they make and how much they eat, this is a positive move that will help in the fight against obesity.

'We now need to see our neighbouring governments follow Scotland’s lead by mirroring this move, but they can also go further. They must protect children outside the school gates by banning the advertising of foods high in salt, sugar and fat on television and online before 9pm.'

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