MPs criticise new rules on school meals

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School meals guidelines to prevent chips being served more than three days a week were criticised by an influential committee of MPs yesterday. It said national standards, due to come into force in 2002, will not cut the amount of sugar and fat that children eat.

School meals guidelines to prevent chips being served more than three days a week were criticised by an influential committee of MPs yesterday. It said national standards, due to come into force in 2002, will not cut the amount of sugar and fat that children eat.

Under the guidelines, which specify which food groupsshould make up school lunches and which should be avoided, baked beans can be on the menu only once a week. Meat pies must be served with half a portion of vegetables, pasta must be weekly and fish must be an option on at least one day.

The all-party Education Select Committee called for guidelines based on the nutritional content of food. Its report said: "While we welcome the food group approach as helpful, non-technical guidance for lay governors and parents, we are not persuaded that it is a suitable basis for statutory regulation."

The MPs called for spot checks on dinners andsaid schools should make more effort to check the quality of packed lunches. They also recommended the Government do research into the low take-up of free school meals by children entitled to them.

They criticised schools that offered only cold lunches or sandwiches as missing "an opportunity to raise and broaden nutritional standards".

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