Jamie Oliver warns Michael Gove on academy school meals

TV chef Jamie Oliver Jamie Oliver has campaigned for healthier school meals

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TV chef Jamie Oliver has said Education Secretary Michael Gove is endangering pupils' nutrition by not controlling what food academy schools provide.

He said he was "totally mystified" that academies were allowed to determine what food should be on offer, while state schools follow strict rules.

"The public health of five million children should not be left to luck or chance," he told the Observer.

The government says it trusts schools to act in their pupils' best interests.

A campaign by the chef led to tough new legal standards on school meals in England.

Oliver told the newspaper: "This mantra that we are not going to tell (academy) schools what to do just isn't good enough in the midst of the biggest obesity epidemic ever."

'Playing with fire'

Referring to Mr Gove, who enabled more schools in England to become academies through the Academies Bill in 2010, Oliver said: "I have got nothing against him personally. But the health of millions of children could be affected by this one man.

"When there is a national obesity crisis unfolding around us, I honestly think he is playing with fire."

Academies are semi-independent schools so do not have to abide by regulations introduced in 2008 which set out strict nutritional guidelines for school food.

There are currently 1,776 academies in England and more schools plan on converting to academy-status.

The chef told the newspaper the national standards introduced should apply to all schools and said academy head teachers should be given guidance on the type of food they should be serving.

He also accused academies of making money from vending machines selling sweets, crisps and fizzy drinks.

Under the national rules, which are applied to other state schools, vending machines can only sell healthy snacks such as fruit, nuts and bottles of water.

Reconstituted turkey

Mr Gove wrote to Jamie Oliver about the chef's concerns on school meals at academies last August.

He wrote: "We have no reason to believe that academies will not provide healthy, balanced meals that meet the current nutritional standards.

"As part of the broader freedoms available to academies, I trust the professionals to act in the best interests of their pupils."

He said he had asked the School Food Trust to carry out a survey of food standards in new academies last autumn.

A government spokesman said: "We trust schools to act in the best interests of their pupils. There's been a lasting culture change in attitudes since Jamie's School Dinners.

"Heads know that failing to invest in good, nutritious food is a false economy and parents won't tolerate reconstituted turkey being put back on the menu.

"The tough nutrition standards remain in place in maintained schools and set a clear benchmark for the rest.

"Catering is outstanding in many longest-established academies - we see no reason that they will all not be serving high quality food to pupils that meet the standards."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    Mr.Gove is concerned with Education, the standard of which has fallen considerably. Mr. Oliver is a"celebrity" chef. he should be advising parents. Each to his lathe!

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    132. siriusx19
    The cheery cockney may be irritating but he's right about this.

    He's about as Cockney as Dick van Dyke.

    Back to subject, what do expect from Tories? Its always about profit first, second and last. welfare of the pupil should be between the parents and the school but we should not subject children to temptation.

    Can't work out whether Gove is idiot or genius.

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    If the government isn`t going to listen to doctors and nurses, they certainly aren`t going to listen to someone who has been championing healthy and nutriitional school meals for years, mores the pity

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    Like everything else that Academies will be free to do, food and vending machines in school will be under no Government control
    Government spokesmen and Gove himself show such unconcern and naivety it is unbelievable
    Profits will come first
    Unfortunately we will have to wait 10 years and a major enquiry to find out this whole policy has been a disaster!

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    Interesting idea floated by 136. Mark.

    Perhaps all those in cabinet should be at least partially qualified in what they manage.

    Is Gove a registered dietician or chartered health psychologist? I doubt it.

    Then there's the issue of consent and capacity does a 6 year old have the same ability to make a reasoned and informed choice as a 16 year old. Probably not

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.

    Isn't it time that the UK seriously question the way school dinners are provided? Just because it has been done for decades doesn't mean that it needs to continue in its present format. The time and money wasted could be used to improve student outcomes. To see children waiting in line for lunch instead of playing outside more? the wastage? the logistics? Dare we question tradition?

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    Due to domestic commitments I had to start making dinner for me and my children 3 times a week. Fed up with wasting money on M&S, I bought a Jamie Oliver cookbook. My children love the food I cook, and I discovered a love for cooking. Thanks Jamie. You definitely had a more positive influence on my family life than any politician or HYS curmudgeon.

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    Beg to differ. Meat (protein, iron and Vit B complex), cabbage, carrots and potatoes (carbs, fibre, Vit C, beta carotene, etc.). Okay, spotted dick and custard we could have managed without, but that was the treat for eating your greens! My school had a varied menu throughout the week and most necessary nutrients were included. Agree, things aren't like they used to be!

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    'A government spokesman said: "We trust schools to act in the best interests of their pupils' Well i trusted politicians to act in my best interests & look at the expenses scandal.While some stepped down from their roles (ie Home Secretary to name one) some (including her) are still there.That's why I'm a governor of an academy,I will ensure good nutrition cos I trust me to do a good job.

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    Why are there so many people posting slanderous comments about Jamie Oliver? He is not trying to punt his own food - he's not mentioned any recipes in the above interview has he?
    He is merely trying to ensure that academies do not take advantage of our children in order to make/save money.
    Academies have a responsibility and it is very easy to make low fat/low sugar meals, freshly made each day.

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    I remember schools dinners in the fifties, with not alot of fondness! I bet Mr Gove and his mates never got that rubbish served up to them at Eton! Why does this Goverment have double standards when it suits their policies, its absolute hypocrisy! They don't care about the sick, old or young! Proof being, over a 100,000 children soon won't be entitled to a school meal! Well done Libdems!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    101 - you obviously dont shop for healthy food!! Fresh fruit and veg resourced sensibly does not cost as much as you think. Michael Gove needs to wake up and face the fact if there is a profit to be made in selling rubbish to children rather than the healthy option the new Academies will do just that -you cant trust anyone. Make them subject to the guidlines set out for the good of all pupils!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    This is the same J Oliver who used to hang out at Pizza Express in West Hampstead when I lived there! What a phoney! Funny how Labour's academies were 'good' and the Tories' are 'bad', when they're the same schools. Want to be in politics, Jaimie? Run for office and subject yourself to public scrutiny. Or else maybe shut up?

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    We trust Academies, who are more concerned with making profit than education, to feed pupils responsibly?

    Oh, yeah sure. I wonder what makes more money? Healthy choices of cans of fizzy sugary drinks and fried foods?...

    Profit before people, once again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    131 Badlypackedkebab

    Upsetting the mod?

    I always get censored after a bit, and because I start to challenge the received wisdom, unsettling the drawing room.

    I agree that my school dinner comments were entirely factual and reasonable. Perhaps they don't like that either. Facts are difficult to cope with. I guess they prefer jaded opinion

    Perhaps my comments might get put back on??

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    Just stick the words 'Fat Man' as an adjectival clause in front of a school acadamy name every time you refer to one. Michal 'growmore' Gove is my MP and he certainly worries me!

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.


    This fool should keep his silly opinions to himself, like all other self appointed 'so called 'experts they should keep their mouths shut. We ellect people to represent us in this country.

    I didn't want a journalist in charge of education, or a bean counter in charge of defence. Oliver has hands-on experience of his field. Gove does not.

    Who's the fool?

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    Surely our children are entitled to at least one healthy meal per day whether they attend academy or state schools.
    I suggest that Mr Gove has monetary profit in mind and not the well being of the pupils.

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    School meals have never been particularly healthy yet childhood obesity is a relatively recent problem. Kids usually like unhealthy foods and always have done.

    Childhood obesity is caused by overprotective parents stopping their kids playing out and letting them spend endless hours on the internet/TV/computer games.

    Forcing schools to offer only healthy foods is pointless. Poor kids.

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    116. sheila coleman

    Wish there was a cooking programme which really did show how to cook basic, cheap nutritious meals, when you come home from work at 6pm and have to serve up a meal by 7pm. Most progs including on the Beeb are entertainment only and work out too expensive


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