Schools get healthy food guidance

New healthy food guidance has been produced for schools

Local authorities (LAs) are being urged to improve the health credentials of food provided to schoolchildren and help reduce the obesity epidemic across the EU, in new guidance form the European Commission (EC).

The EC’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) and Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety, together with the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the EU has produced a report to help LAs implement healthy food standards ensuring that they procure healthy school food.

The report provides technical guidance on, among other things, drafting clear specifications on foods and food services to be procured to make the healthy food the default choice.

Healthy food choice

“Healthy food is essential for the well-being and development of children and young people and schools are an excellent place to make the healthy food choice, the easy choice,” said Vytenis Andriukaitis, commissioner for health and food safety, and Tibor Navracsics, commissioner for education, culture, youth and sport, responsible for the JRC, in a joint statement.

This EU research tool will help schools to do exactly that  provide kids with food that enables them to grow and develop in the best way possible.”

Policy makers, educators and researchers already have available European school food policies produced by the EC’s JRC in 2014. Building on this overview, the technical guidance in the new report covers key food groups such as fruit and vegetables, meat, dairy products, cakes and sweets and nutrients such as salt, saturated fat, carbohydrates, sugars, and micronutrients like iron, calcium and vitamin C.

It also includes specifications for food preparation and catering services in general.

Sugar in food and drink

In a separate move, the Obesity Health Alliance (OHA) – an alliance of 39 health charities, medical royal colleges and campaign groups – has today (February 24) called on the food industry to reduce the amount of sugar in food and drink, following a new study it has produced that suggests children aged 11 to 18 years old are consuming the equivalent of 20 chocolate chip biscuits a day in sugar.

The OHA has urged the food and drink industry to comply with the government’s reformulation programme to reduce the amount of sugar in food commonly eaten by children by 20% by 2020. Reformulation programmes that reduce certain ingredients in products are likely to be one of the most effective ways to help people eat more healthily, reported the OHA.

“Most parents would never hand over 20 chocolate biscuits a day to their children, but with so much hidden sugar in our food and drink it can often be hard to know just how much children are consuming,” said OHA spokesman Dr Modi Mwatsama. “That is why we are calling the food and drink industry to urgently comply with the government’s reformulation programme.”

Figures from the government’s National Diet and Nutrition Survey have shown that, on average, all age groups are consuming more free sugars (that added to food and drink) than the government’s recommendation which is 30 grams of free sugars a day for over 11-year-olds and adults.

The highest intake is in 11-to-18 year olds (73.2 g/day), followed by 19-to-64 year-olds (59.9 g/day) and then four-to-10 year-olds (53.5/day).

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