School kitchens get pass mark

Consumer group checks 600 across France and finds food quality has improved – although more junk food starting to appear

20 March 2013

TESTS of 600 school kitchens across France have shown that the nutritional quality of pupils’ meals has improved since set levels were introduced in 2011.

Consumer group UFC-Que Choisir checked primary and secondary schools and found that private schools fared less well than state schools – but attacked the increase in “junk food” which was starting to appear in some establishments.

It said that the results were “encouraging” and noted more kitchens were complying with the rules on starchy foods, dairy products and vegetables, plus the requirement for a four-item menu.

However, some schools were criticised for being “hypocritical” in offering a choice of fish or meat against chicken nuggets or fruit against a creamy dessert. Others were attacked for having dearer fast-food stalls beside the cantine.

Private schools with catering supplied by companies such as Elior, Sodexo and Scolarest were severely marked down in the report for a complete lack of nutritional balance in the choices.

Primary schools offered the best meals with schools in Saint-Denis (Seine-Saint-Denis), Paris 16th arrondissement and Quimper in Finistère being named top, with schools in Calais (Pas-de-Calais), Les Pennes-Mirabeau (Bouches-du-Rhône) and Clermont (Oise) the poorest.

In secondary schools, UFC-Que Choisir said the results were a “bare pass mark” because of the poor amount of raw vegetables, fish, meat and fruit available and because in 36% of schools it was possible to go a month without having any red meat.

Top schools were collège Maurice Ravel in Toulon (Var) and lycée Jean Dautet in La Rochelle (Charente-Maritime). Worst were collège François Villon in Marseille and lycée François 1er in Le Havre (Seine-Maritime).

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