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Standards of nursery food to be reviewed

The Government will announce a review of food standards in nurseries today as ministers launch a fresh pre-election assault on the Tories over their plans for Sure Start centres.

The intense jockeying for position by the parties means measures to ensure the under-fives are eating healthily are accompanied by a highly political attack on what Labour says are the Tories' plans to cut the Sure Start budget.

Children's Secretary Ed Balls will mark the opening of the 3,500th Sure Start centre in England with a claim that the Conservatives would cut funding by £200 million, which could force one-in-five centres to close.

At the same time he will launch a campaigning website to support the Sure Start programme backed by celebrity mother Michelle Collins, Jo Brand and Arabella Weir.

"By cutting Sure Start and rolling back Labour's child trust fund and tax credits, David Cameron's Conservatives are demonstrating they haven't changed," Mr Balls said.

"When families take a long, hard look at the Tories they can see that they have the wrong policies for children and the wrong priorities for our country."

Meanwhile the Government will announce the formation of a new advisory panel on whether children attending nurseries are getting healthy, balanced and nutritious food.

The panel is chaired by Dr Anthony Williams, reader in child nutrition and consultant paediatrics at St George's University of London.

Among the issues it will consider is whether there is a case for strengthened or mandatory standards to bring more in line with those operating in schools.

Its findings are due to be published in August in time to feed into a wider review of the early years foundation stage which begins in September.

Children's minister Dawn Primarolo said: "Parents and nurseries are already doing a fantastic job encouraging children to eat more healthily, but we want to make sure that standards of nursery food are good everywhere."