Scotland will become the UK nation to set maximum limits for consumption of red processed meat over a school week, which will also reduce exposure to harmful nitrites.
The move is part of a new initiative to make school food healthier and increases the amount of fruit and vegetables served, whilst significantly reducing the amount of sugar available throughout the school day.
The SNP Government and local authorities are jointly committed to providing the healthiest food to children and young people. This is underpinned by a duty to provide school meals that meet strict nutritional requirements, encouraging the use of fresh, local and sustainable produce. The change strengthens efforts to improve diet, halve childhood obesity by 2030 and strengthen children and young people’s healthy eating habits.
School food regulations will be amended to ensure:
A minimum of two full portions of vegetables and one of fruit are offered as part of a school lunch, with full portions of fruit and or vegetables also available in, for example, tuck shops;
Reduced red and processed red meat provision- such as bacon, ham and pepperoni - in school lunches to help minimise exposure to nitrites;
Removal of fruit juice and smoothies from schools to reduce sugar intake.
The measures follow extensive consultation and advice from a working group comprising health, nutrition and education experts. The regulations will come into effect by autumn 2020 to allow councils time to plan their menus and supply chains.
Education Secretary John Swinney MSP 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.
“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.”
Kenneth Gibson MSP added:
“These changes will improve our school food, help tackle childhood obesity and give our children the best start in life.
"Health in Scotland is improving, but not for everyone. Supporting children and young people at school is an important way of addressing these inequalities. Together with a range of other actions to help support a healthy diet, this new guidance will contribute to improving health and reducing health inequalities in Scotland.”
Claire Hislop, Organisational Lead for Diet and Healthy Weight at NHS Health Scotland and a member of the technical working group which reviewed the current regulations, commented:
“The technical working group put the health and wellbeing of children and young people at the heart of our recommendations, drawing on the latest evidence and knowledge of current school food practices.
“We welcome the changes to the food and drink provided in schools, which will help create an environment in which children can choose a healthy, balanced diet.”