PM's promise on school dinners goes cold

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The Independent Online

The Prime Minister's much-vaunted promise to improve the quality of school dinners began to unravel last night amid growing evidence of a damaging Whitehall turf war.

Tony Blair's much-vaunted promise to improve the quality of school dinners began to unravel last night amid growing evidence of a damaging turf war in Whitehall.

A government adviser questioned why new nutritional standards are not being introduced immediately ­ and accused the Department for Education and Skills of "foot-dragging".

The Secretary of State for Education, Ruth Kelly, admitted last week that existing guidelines drawn up in 2001 are inadequate.

Ms Kelly announced a new advisory committee to develop tougher standards by September as part of the Mr Blair's much-trumpeted announcement of more than £280m for school dinners.

The initiative followed the campaign by Jamie Oliver against bad food served at school to children. But the new minimum requirements will not be introduced until next year at the earliest. A member of the new group, which includes commercial caterers, told The Independent on Sunday that the only delay to an immediate new standard was Ms Kelly's department, which does not employ a single nutritional expert.

Insiders blamed a turf war between Ms Kelly and the Department of Health over the issue of children's health. Recent publicity has also prompted questions about why the Government has not imposed a ban on junk food advertising aimed at children.

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