Knowledge for better food systems

Follow-up: school meals in France

In the mailing on 6 December 2011 we quoted the Telegraph, who reports that “the French government has stated that that all students will have to eat meat if they want lunch at school.” 

A French mailing list member has replied to say that the Telegraph have presented the information in a misleading fashion. She points to the Act and corresponding information which you can find here and here.

The regulations state that each meal has to include: a main dish, a side dish, a dairy product and either a starter or a dessert. The menu has to vary every day over 20 days. The main meal has to be based on ‘meat, fish, eggs, offal or cheese.’  The number of meals with more than 15g saturated fat or more than 20g sugar per serving are limited over the 20 day cycle. 

She also makes the following comments: “Similar rules have been in place for more than 40 years in France. A vegetarian family would be allowed to make a specific query, as for any family with religious or other specific demand.”

Her point here is that this is not a new regulation, but rather an update of an existing one which affirms the requirement to provide students with balanced school meals, even in a time of budgetary cuts.

Incidentally, we checked out the UK school meal standards and in fact there is no legal obligation to provide vegetarian (or halal, or other) meals. The requirements say “It is up to the school to decide whether this is feasible, although every effort should be made to cater for all pupils' needs. Schools are not required by law to cater for children with special dietary needs but they are encouraged to do so.” See here.

However, our undertstanding is that in practice all schools do provide a vegetarian option and many in certain parts of London provide halal meat.  we're not sure how far vegan children are specifically catered for – we expect in practice many bring in a packed lunch.

For the first summary of this report see here.


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