Jamie Oliver warns Michael Gove on academy school meals
- 22 April 2012
- From the section UK
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.
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."