Food and drink in schools: nutrition requirements review

Independent review by the Technical Working Group of nutrition requirements regulations.

1. Remit of the Technical Working Group

The remit of the technical working group ( TWG) was:

  • to undertake a review of the existing School Food and Drink Regulations (Scotland) 2008
  • to provide evidence based recommendations with a view to more closely aligning school food regulations with the Scottish Dietary Goals ( SDGs). The SDGs, agreed by Scottish Ministers, were most recently amended in March 2016 and are published on the Scottish Government website [1] .

The primary focus of the TWG was the health and wellbeing of children and young people. The proposed nutritional standards are based on the consensus view of the current science and evidence base in relation to diet and health.

1.1 The Wider Context of School Food

Evidence gathered from inspections by Education Scotland’s Health and Nutrition Inspectors provided a wider context for the TWG considerations.

In proposing change, the TWG took account of differences in the types of provision between primary and secondary school. In primary school the uptake of school lunch is the highest it has ever been due to the introduction of universal free school lunches for primary 1-3 in January 2015.

In secondary schools, fewer young people choose a main meal in the middle of the day and almost all have the choice to leave school at lunchtime, where there are fewer options for eating healthily compared with in school [2] . Morning provision may also be used by young people to purchase food for consumption during lunchtime activities. However, it is of concern that current food provision outwith lunch in schools may lead to the establishment of poor dietary habits that could track into adulthood e.g. through daily purchase of rolls with red processed meat fillings and large portions of sweetened baked products. This type of provision undermines the strict standards set for lunches.

Currently, only a few standards apply to food provision outwith lunch. However, the 2008 guide to implementing the nutritional requirements for food and drink in school (Scotland) regulations 2008 [3] contains guidance to encourage healthier snack provision and minimise foods high in fat, salt and sugar. Regrettably, this is not seen consistently in practice across Scotland and therefore additional standards are now proposed in relation to food provision across the day.

The TWG is aware of the budgetary pressures on local authorities and the impact that the proposed changes may have on staff who plan menus and undertake nutritional analysis.

In proposing new standards, the TWG also considered regulations or guidance provided to schools in the other devolved nations and the Republic of Ireland.

The TWG is aware of the high level of interest in school food and prior to finalising the recommendations, the TWG sought views from education and catering colleagues from across Scotland on some key aspects of the proposals.


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