Kids’ school packed lunches still full of Junk food: research

ISLAMABAD, : Parents are still packing their
children’s school lunchboxes with junk food, despite high-profile
awareness campaigns on childhood obesity and guidance provided by
consumer groups, research has found.
The Leeds University study found just 1.6% of packed lunches
for primary school children met tough nutritional standards set
for their classmates eating in the school canteen, Health news
reported.
About half of all primary school pupils take a packed lunch
to school. Researchers found that only 1 in 5 lunchboxes contained
any vegetables or salad, while 52%-60% contained too many sweet
and savoury snacks, or sugary drinks (42%), leading to high levels
of saturated fat, sugar and salt and not enough minerals and
vitamins.
The study, described as “eye opening” by lead researcher Dr
Charlotte Evans, saw only a fractional improvement from a decade
ago, when 1.1% of lunches passed the standard set for school
meals.
The minority of children (17%) who eat vegetables and salad
had not altered since 2006, it found.
The report found some progress: for instance the majority of
packed lunches examined by researchers passed the standards for
protein (95%) and vitamin C (75%).
The first statutory school meal standard was introduced in
due to growing evidence linking poor health in adults with obesity
or poor diet in children. They limit the amount of foods high in
salt, sugar and fats and stipulate that school meals should
provide a third of a child’s nutritional requirements.
However, although Ofsted says schools must have a policy on
packed lunches, there is no law requiring them to abide by the
same standards.
Evans, a nutritional epidemiologist, said that she believed
the wealth of information on sugar in sweetened drinks may have
had an impact on the reduction in the numbers in lunchboxes. But
she added that more needed to be done by retailers, food
manufacturers and schools if improvements are to be made overall.
Evans said: “I hope the results of the study are an eye-
opener, highlighting that more stringent policies need to be
introduced if we want to see real change in the nutritional value
of children’s packed lunches.
New policies for schools, food manufacturers and retailers
are needed, which will require strong support from government and
stakeholders if progress is to be made.”

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