The School Food Trust
The School Food Trust is the body created by Government to advise on school food, following Jamie Oliver's devastating critique of the nutritional quality of school meals. It is governed by a board, all of whose members are appointed by the Secretary of State for Education and Skills. Its remit encompasses both school meals, and other foods and snacks sold in schools.
While the SFT has come up with a number of good ideas and positive initiatives, it is carefully avoiding any mention of trans fats or hydrogenated oils in school food. We have made a number of submissions to the SFT and the closely linked School Meals Review Panel on trans fats and hydrogenated oils, for example:
- tfX response to "A Framework for Setting Standards for School Food Other Than Lunch"
- tfX response to "Turning the Tables: Transforming School Food"
Unfortunately these submissions have been completely ignored. We can only conclude that the SFT is deliberately ignoring the trans fat issue. Why should this be? Presumably because its board members include people who are anxious to avoid drawing attention to the dreadful health impacts of hydrogenated oils / trans fats.
After all, if this authoritative body was to identity trans fats as a problem, it could lead to a far wider discussion of the issue. If trans fats are to be excluded from school meals, what about children's meals at home? What about the food we all eat, not just children? The floodgates could truly be opened. And that would be damaging to a food industry which is anxious to carry on feeding us trans fat-laden gack for as long as it can get away with it!
So, just how strongly is the food industry represented in the SFT? Its board includes eight people (as of 8 March 2006) that are either part of the food and catering industry, or very close to it, out of a total of 14 members:
- Dame Suzi Leather (Chair) - founding Deputy Chair of the Food Standards Agency
- Beverley Baker - Head of Commercial Services for Surrey County Council, former Chair of the Local Authorities' Catering Association
- John Dyson - adviser to the British Hospitality Association
- Julian Hunt - editor of The Grocer since 2002.
- Paul Kelly - Group Corporate Affairs Director for Compass Group plc, Vice President of the European Federation of Contract Catering Organisations. Worryingly, he "leads for the Group on all nutrition issues".
- Rob Rees - former chef, restaurateur and board member of the Food Standards Agency, chair of Kraft's Health4Schools project, trustee for the industry NGO the British Nutrition Foundation ...
- Sheila Walker - Head of Catering Services at Birmingham City Council
- Ian Wasson - General Manager of Devon Direct Services, former Chair of the Local Authority Caterers' Association.
We feel that this strong representation from food and catering industry participants, and others close to the industry, is what lies behind the reluctance to highlight the dangers of trans fat in children's food and so potentially open a Pandora's box.
Conversely, this is why it is so important for all those concerned about trans fats to make sure the SFT does indeed mention the issue and act to keep hydrogenated oil / trans fat out of our schools!
Write to / email the SFT demanding that all nutritional and quality guidelines for school meals and other food in schools should exclude hydrogenated oil.
See the SFT report Transforming School Food (available from SFT website) and respond to the DfES on the deplorable lack of guidelines on trans fats at firstname.lastname@example.org by 30 March 2006.
tfX Letter (9 March 2006)
Feel free to copy any / all of this letter when writing to the School Food Trust.
Dear School Food Trust,
I am writing to ask what the School Food Trust thinks of the inclusion in children's food of hydrogenated oils containing trans fatty acids.
Does the SFT think that hydrogenated oils containing trans fatty acids are an appropriate and beneficial part of children's diet, and support their inclusion in school meals and other school food?
If so, please could you let me know on what scientific basis you feel that hydrogenated oils containing trans fatty acids are appropriate and beneficial for children to eat.
If, conversely, the SFT does not think that it is appropriate and beneficial for children to eat hydrogenated oils containing trans fatty acids, please would you explain why the SFT has failed to make any mention of the desirability of their exclusion, for example in the recent document "Transforming School Food".
Oliver Tickell, tfX.