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Oliver blasts school food standards

Jamie Oliver has accused Education Secretary Michael Gove of "putting children's future health at risk" as new research showed many academies are now selling junk food.

More than one in four academies are offering crisps and savoury snacks while about one in six are providing chocolate and sweets. One in 12 supply fizzy or energy drinks, according to a study by the School Food Trust (SFT).

The TV chef said that the research has provided "solid evidence" for the first time that nutritional food standards in academies are in danger. He added that he has written to all MPs asking them to back a parliamentary bid for academies and free schools to be covered by the food standard requirements that apply to other state schools.

Oliver won the support of campaigners last year after raising concerns that academies are not obliged to sign up to tough food regulations introduced by the previous government.

Mr Gove has always maintained that giving academies the choice to opt out of nutritional standards gives them the freedom to do what is best for their students, and said there is no reason to believe these schools will not provide meals that meet the regulations. Following a meeting with Oliver in June, he asked the SFT to carry out a study of established academies looking at their approach to healthy dinners.

Those findings reveal that 86 of the 100 academies surveyed reported that they monitored their food against the set standards. But the report adds that evidence suggests that many were not acting on the results of the monitoring to ensure they met regulations.

Overall, many academies were offering food that was high in sugar, salt and fat, and in most cases it was on offer in the school canteen rather than being limited to vending machines or sixth-form areas.

Some 26 academies were providing crisps and other savoury snacks while 16 were offering chocolate and sweets, the study found. More than half (54) were offering cereal bars that are usually high in sugar and classed as confectionery, with a further 82 providing pupils with fruit juice or squash that are either high in sugar or low in fruit.

Oliver said: "For the first time, we have solid evidence from the academies themselves that nutritional standards are in real danger. These standards are there for a reason - to help prevent England from sliding further behind when it comes to essential action to fight child obesity and diet-related disease. Mr Gove is putting our children's future health at risk."

The Department for Education (DfE) insisted that a second SFT report showed that food standards in academies are no worse than in other state schools and in many cases, academies are outperforming others.

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