Leeds pupils’ diet harmed by lunchboxes

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THE GOVERNMENT is being urged to put packed lunches at the heart of its childhood obesity agenda after a study found that only 1.6 per cent of lunchboxes in England’s primary schools are meeting nutritional standards.

The research found that the quality of young children’s lunchboxes has only improved by 0.5 per cent in the last 10 years.

Experts are now calling for packed lunch policies to be introduced to cut down on the amount of unhealthy foods, such as crisps, chocolate biscuits and sugary drinks being brought into schools.

Researchers at the University of Leeds found that lunchboxes continued to be filled with high levels of saturated fats, sugars and salts, with only one in five containing any vegetables or salad.

Of all the lunchboxes examined, less than 20 per cent met the standards for energy, vitamin A, or zinc and only 26 per cent met the standard for iron.

Three lunches, containing just a squash drink, a packet of crisps, a chocolate bar or roll and, in one box, a pasty, did not meet any standards for school food in England. Jo Nicholas, head of research at the Children’s Food Trust, said packed lunches were contributing to the child obesity problem and the Trust was “disappointed” not to see packed lunch policies in the Government’s childhood obesity strategy. She said: “We’ve got to do more to help parents and schools with this.

“Putting a packed lunch policy in place can be tough, but every school allowing packed lunches needs one if we’re going make life easier for parents and give kids a consistent message.”

Dr Charlotte Evans, nutritional epidemiologist and the study’s lead researcher, said that new polices for schools, food manufacturers and retailers are needed.

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