Schools

Councils starts inspection pilot to improve school food

Food hygiene inspectors are set to look at the nutritional value of school meals in 18 areas nationwide

Food hygiene inspectors are set to look at the nutritional value of school meals in 18 areas nationwide

3 Oct 2022, 18:14

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A government pilot aimed at driving up school food standards has begun in 18 areas nationwide, with inspectors set to look at the nutritional value of meals.

The “levelling up” white paper in February promised to “design and test a new approach” to check and support school compliance with national food standards.

The government’s subsequent food strategy made a similar pledge as part of a wider “school food revolution”.

Now the pilot has begun in 18 different local authorities this month, according to a Department for Education email to school leaders.

The scheme, co-led by the DfE and the Food Standards Agency, will see council officers who undertake routine food hygiene inspections also ask questions and make observations about “nutrition-focussed” issues. It will run throughout the school year until July 2023.

While such observations will not contribute to schools’ hygiene inspection results or ratings, they may be shared with public health or food education teams.

These other officers “could then support the school to improve compliance with school food standards”, according to FSA documents.

Results will also not be made publicly available, but research from the pilot will inform decisions over “the role local authorities across England could play in assuring compliance with the school food standards”.

Professor Susan Jebb, FSA chair, has previously suggested the plans were an “important step to bring central and local government closer together”, and ensuring “robust assurance”.

A Local Government Association spokesperson said it supported extra nutrition checks, but warned council resources were “constrained”, adding: “Councils should be empowered to make risk-based judgments on where they need to target scarce resources.”

Food for Life, part of the Soil Association and offering a standards verification scheme, claimed in 2019 at least 60 per cent of schools were not compliant with food standards. Its investigation found caterers highlighting rising costs, inadequate government funding and a lack of enforcement.

One claimed some schools were “totally unaware” of standards when contracting. Another said: “Nobody is checking to make sure, so nobody is being held accountable for non-compliant meals.”

The authorities involved are:

1. Blackpool Council
2. Lincolnshire County Council
3. City of Lincoln Council
4. Plymouth City Council
5. Nottingham City Council
6. Royal Borough of Greenwich
7. Derbyshire County Council
8. Derbyshire Dales District Council
9. City of Wolverhampton Council
10. Oldham Council
11. Herefordshire Council
12. City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council
13. Telford and Wrekin Council
14. Newham Council
15. Chelmsford City Council
16. South Tyneside Council
17. Peterborough City Council
18. Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council

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