Experts say attempts to curb child obesity at schools are failing


SCOTTISH schools are “making a mockery” of child obesity target efforts, claims leading food expert – as new inspection reports reveal 456 calorie cakes are still being served.

Inspection reports have revealed that over half of Scottish schools are failing to meet standards for school meals.

Despite strict nutritional guidelines to help Scotland’s increasing obesity problem, many schools are still serving deep-fried food and using “high volumes of processed meat”.

One school was even found to be still serving high school children slices of iced carrot cake – containing 456 kcal and 43.8g of sugar.

Recommended daily intake for adults is 2,000 calories for women and 2,500 for men – while no more than 30g of sugar should be consumed by a person each day.

The revelation comes from a freedom of information request by Tes Scotland which investigated 10 of the most recent inspections conducted by Education Scotland’s health and nutrition inspectors.

Wendy Wills, professor of food and public health at the University of Hertfordshire, recently published research on school meals in Scotland and said these recent findings “make a mockery” of the efforts that have been put in place to tackle obesity.

She said: “The standards in Scotland have almost given a mask of doing something about school food but this information clearly shows the reality does not match the standards.

“That resonates with the research in schools I have done, which shows fried foods, cakes and baked goods are still being served.”

Conservative MSP and former athlete, Brian Whittle, said agreed and said it “makes no sense whatsoever” for schools to serve pizza and chicken nuggets over locally produced food.

He added: “Nutrition is a key pillar of food physical and mental health so poor nutrition in schools is driving health inequality.”

Glasgow’s Hillhead High was found to have be serving the slices of carrot cake that contained 456 calories.

That is just under a quarter of the daily recommended intake for women at 2,000kcal and a fifth of the intake for men at 2,500kcal.

The same secondary school also came under fire from inspectors for serving chicken “poppers” and pizza, as well as baked goods for breakfast.

Further figures showed that 51% of the 340 schools inspected since 2012 failed to hit the standard for food.

Of secondary schools that were inspected, 73% missed the standard and this is compared with just 39% of primary schools that failed to hit it.

However, some schools who were shown to making improvements were praised in recent inspection reports.

Inverallochy Primary in Aberdeenshire encourage pupils to eat a healthy snack for four days of the week and keep crisps and chocolate for a treat on Fridays.

P5 – p7 pupils run a “Snack Shack” from Monday to Thursday that sells healthier items, with nothing priced at more than 20p.

Education Scotland inspectors have since praised this scheme, saying it was “commendable”.

Whilst at St Ninian’s High in East Dunbartonshire, praise was given for banning fizzy and energy drinks.

Inspectors also praised schools where staff encouraged children to make health choices and eat as much of their meal as possible.

The findings come in a week when education secretary John Swinney launched a consultation on school food and nutrition regulations after Nicola Sturgeon united with celebrity chef Jamie Oliver to reveal new targets to cut child obesity in Scotland by half by 2030.

An Education Scotland spokeswoman said: “We are currently working with education and catering colleagues in local authorities across Scotland, to develop a self-evaluation framework for food ins schools, which will support improvements.”