Caterers in fightback against 'Oliver effect'

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School caterers are to launch a fightback against the "Jamie Oliver effect", which they blame for the slump in demand for school meals.

They will use a national television campaign to try to restore parents' confidence in school dinners, which they believe was damaged by the chef's programmes.

There has been a 12.5 per cent fall in numbers eating school dinners since Oliver began highlighting his concerns about school food in March last year. His Channel 4 series Jamie's School Dinners has been credited with forcing the setting of tough new nutritional standards for school food, including banning chips more than twice a week and insisting on at least two portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

Caterers argue that the campaign worsened the diets of some children by persuading their parents to withdraw them from their school dinners and supply unhealthy packed lunches full of processed foods.

"We are looking to produce an advert to counter the negative publicity that Jamie Oliver brought about," said Kevin McKay, chairman of the Local Authority Caterers' Association.