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School Meals

Volume 458: debated on Wednesday 14 March 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what advice he received from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in response to the recommendations of the Turning the Tables report produced by the School Meals Review Panel (SMRP); what the scientific basis was of (a) the recommendations of the SMRP report and (b) the FSA advice; and what differences there are between (i) the SMRP recommendations and (ii) the FSA advice and the final standards set out in the Education (Nutritional Standards for School Lunches) Regulations 2000. (125718)

The School Meals Review Panel (SMRP) was established by DfES in May 2005 to advise on standards for school lunches. The SMRP's ‘Turning the Tables - Transforming School Food’ report, published in October 2005, set out their recommendations to Ministers.

The SMRP's report recommended that new combined 'food' and 'nutrient' based standards were needed to bring about effective changes to school lunches and should replace the previous standards introduced in 2001. The report included references to the published scientific studies that were considered during the panel's deliberations. The full report can be viewed at:

http://www.schoolfoodtrust.org.uk/documents.asp?DocCatld=1

The first phase of the changes to school lunches began with the introduction, in September, of the Education (Nutritional Standards for School Lunches) (England) Regulations 2006. Schools will need to adhere to final 'food' and 'nutrient' based lunch standards by September 2008 (primary schools) and September 2009 (secondary schools). These will be set out in later regulations that will be laid before Parliament later this year.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is an independent Government Department established to protect the public's health and consumer interests in relation to food. It advises DFES on scientific and technical aspects including food safety, nutrition and diet.

Officials from the FSA acted as observers at SMRP meetings and provided technical advice to DfES on those issues that fell within its remit. This advice was broadly supportive of those aspects of the SMRP's recommendations that were within the FSA's remit and assisted with the formulation of the 2006 Regulations. The FSA's advice was provided in line with its nutrition policy, which is informed by considerations of the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition and formerly the Committee on Medical Aspects of Food Policy.

The Nutritional Standards for School Lunches introduced in September 2006 implemented all of the SMRP's 'food based' recommendations, with a minor amendment to acceptable drinks:

A reduction to the amount of added sugar in milk based drinks from no more than 10 per cent. to no more than 5 per cent.;

The addition of soya drinks enriched with calcium as an additional option.

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment his Department has made of the potential effects on (a) nutrition and (b) costs which might arise from use of new-generation steam convection ovens in school kitchens; and what advice he has received from the School Food Trust on this subject. (126062)

The Department for Education and Skills has not made an assessment of the potential nutritional benefits and savings which might arise from the use of new-generation steam convention ovens in schools. The School Food Trust has not provided advice to the Department on this subject.