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Jamie's health binge backfires

Naked Chef Jamie Oliver's push for healthier foods to replace greasy french fries, chicken nuggets and turkey twizzlers on British school menus is backfiring.

by: Food24 | 06 Sep 2007

The number of children eating school meals has fallen by 424,000 since the government's healthy eating drive began two years ago, with pupils spurning Jamie Oliver-style lunches in favour of takeaways, official figures show, reported The Guardian.

Oliver led a nationwide campaign to improve the quality of food served in schools, demanding more money for meals and a ban on junk food. His TV series "Jamie's School Dinners" exposed how cafeteria menus relied on prepared foods like chicken nuggets or the turkey twizzler, a corkscrew of mainly reconstituted turkey scraps and preservatives. Such meals, usually served with piles of fatty french fries, could cost as little as 66 cents.

The TV series prompted the Government to inject £220million into the system over three years, then another £240million up to 2011.

"I'm still committed to it, but really over the next five years, we'll see that negative turn into a positive," he told BBC radio. "We have to be philosophical, we have to keep supporting it," he said. "We have to know and do what's best for our kids."

However the Government is almost a million children below its 2009 target for encouraging more youngsters to take up the option.

School caterers say they support the programme's aims, but believe the changes may be too extreme.

"We believe that such radical changes to young peoples dietary habits are too draconian and the speed of their introduction is too fast," the Local Authority Caterers Association said in a July report.

The new programme includes banning the sale of chocolate bars, flavoured biscuits, sweets and crisps – as well a clampdown on salt, ketchup and mayonnaise on canteen tables.

A spokesman for the School Food Trust said: "We knew this would happen in the first year. But primary schools have stabilised and in the next couple of years as children more used to ,the new meals, come through to secondary level we think numbers will begin to bump up."

However it seems that British pupils still prefer crisps to fruit.

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