School canteens fear exodus as new healthy food guidelines are introduced

New criteria come into effect for school canteens in September, but catering companies fear the healthy eating rules will drive pupils to nearby snackbars, the Financieele Dagblad reported on Tuesday.

The government’s food advisory agency Voedingscentrum and Jogg, a foundation to encourage health eating among the young, have drawn up new guidelines for school canteens which look at what teenagers put on bread, as well as the amount of fibre in the bread itself.

Cheese and cold meats will still be allowed but youngsters will be encouraged to eat them with low fat spreads, lettuce, cucumber and tomato. Snacks should have no more than 75 calories and sugary drinks are frowned upon.

Many catering companies are refusing to adopt the new regulations, the FD said. ‘We back healthy schools but not unconditionally,’ Ruud Balje, of the contract caterers association VOOC, told the paper. ‘Tightening up the product range is making it very unattractive to the kids.’

He predicts schools will empty at lunchtime as pupils head for the supermarket or snackbar to buy crisps and chips.

According to research by mapping company Locatus, over 25% of secondary schools are located within in easy walking distance of at least three fast food outlets.

The Netherlands has some 2,100 secondary schools, of which 1,900 have a canteen. Half of the canteens are run by the schools themselves, while the rest bring in a catering firm.

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