27 Feb 2009

Govt again defends allowing unhealthy food in schools

7:19 pm on 27 February 2009

The Government is again defending its decision to allow unhealthy food to be sold in schools in the wake of an international report advocating that schools provide healthy options for children.

It follows renewed criticism from the Labour Party and organisation Fight the Obesity Epidemic, which have both seized on the cancer report which advocates healthy eating.

The World Cancer Research Fund report says the risk of getting many cancers is reduced by about a third if people eat healthy food and exercise.

Among the report's 48 recommendations to help reduce cancer rates are that governments require schools to meet high nutritional standards and provide healthy food for children.

Earlier this month, the National-led Government scrapped the requirement by schools to only sell healthy food on their premises, saying it was an unnecessary and a bureaucratic burden.

The previous Labour-led Government introduced the measure in a bid to combat childhood obesity.

But Health Minister Tony Ryall on Friday said the Government stands by the change in policy.

"The Government's view is that it should be up to boards and trustees and parents to decide what food is available in the tuck shop of schools.

"We simply don't need a bureaucratic structure trying to hunt out some stray custard square and putting a black mark against a school for doing that."

The Government said boards of trustees should make their own decisions about what are appropriate foods and drinks and is confident they will act responsibly.

A guideline requiring schools to promote healthy food and drink would remain in place.