New regulations to make school meals healthier

Thursday 13th June 2019

Red meat will increasingly be off the menu in Scotland’s schools under new regulations to be introduced by the Scottish Government. More fruit and vegetables and less processed red meat and sugar are among the changes.

Maximum limits for consumption of red processed meat – such as bacon and pepperoni – over the course of the school week are being set, alongside removal of smoothies and fruit juices.

“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,” says John Swinney, the Deputy First Minister.

“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.”

The Scottish Government has set a target to halve childhood obesity by 2030.

Statistics show just in one in 20 children who are obese when they are five will return to a healthy weight by the time they turn 11.

The new regulations have been amended to ensure a minimum of two full portions of vegetables and a full portion of fruit are offered as part of every child’s school lunch.

The regulations will come into effect by autumn 2020 to allow councils time to plan their menus and supply chains.

Welcoming the move, Professor Steve Turner, officer for Scotland for the Royal College of Paediatrics & Child Health (RCPCH) said:

 “More than 28% of children in Scotland 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. 

“This standard gives children and parents a clear and positive message about what food groups are healthy.

“Obesity is an issue that has rippled through communities, not just in Scotland but right across the UK. It is contributing to rising numbers of children suffering with associated conditions like type two diabetes and breathing problems.

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

Claire Hislop, organisational lead for diet and healthy weight at NHS Health Scotland and a member of the technical working group that reviewed the current regulations, said:

“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.

"We know that 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.”