Oliver slams Gove for junking healthy school dinners

Flagship academy schools to be exempt from nutritional rules set up after chef's campaign

Jamie Oliver thought he had purged schools of vending machines packed with sweets and fizzy drinks.

But he has accused the Education Secretary Michael Gove of undoing his good work by allowing unhealthy food back in schools.

Oliver attacked Mr Gove after the Government decided to allow its flagship academy schools to be exempt from strict new nutritional standards introduced for all schools two years ago.

The television chef told the BBC yesterday that Mr Gove was eroding the standards set up after "a good bit of work" introduced under the last government. "His view is that we should let schools do what they want," he added.

The move could see the return of the sausage roll and confectionery in school vending machines, according to the Local Authority Catering Association, which provides food to thousands of schools. Its spokeswoman Linda Mitchell said it was being asked to "bring back some unhealthy food" into schools. "They [caterers] are being asked to put [in] confectionery and other snacks," she said. "It is a return to the sausage roll to school. It is a very short step before you will see the introduction of sweets and fizzy drinks back in these areas." The celebrity chef launched a high-profile campaign to improve school dinners through his programme Jamie's School Dinners six years ago.

It culminated with a petition to No 10 demanding better nutritional standards in schools. The petition was received by the then Prime Minister Tony Blair, who immediately announced a £300m boost to providing school meals. It was later followed by legislation introducing minimum standards in schools which insisted on more fruit and vegetables on the menu and a reduction in fatty foods so that chips would be served on limited occasions.

The move was not universally popular and parents passed chips and burgers to their children through school railings in Rotherham. A spokesman for the Department for Education said it trusted schools to serve meals that were in the best interests of children.

In a letter to Oliver earlier this year, Mr Gove wrote: "I would like to reassure you we have no reason to believe that academies will not provide healthy balanced meals which meet current nutritional standards."